The government's work on a project to relieve the Sadarghat river port of workload by a sizeable amount is no doubt desirable as it has been a long overdue step. Although road networks have progressed considerably since independence, inland waterways have lagged behind through lack of adequate attention and investment. About half the country's cargo movement and a quarter of passenger traffic are carried through the inland waterways. It is therefore heartening that a detailed, well-participated feasibility session has been held very recently on the project, not a regular culture in our planning paradigm. With a funding of US$360 million from the World Bank, besides the government's own participation, the project is set to improve water transport services along the regional corridor with domestic, bilateral and sub-regional trade in mind. Although important river ports of the central, eastern and southern zone of the country are parts of the project, what's attention-grabbing for the residents of Dhaka is the projected freeing of Sadarghat port with an onward connectivity.
As is well-known, there is little space available for Sadarghat proper to expand. Residential and commercial establishments have sprung up all around except the riverfront on the Buriganga. Although this riverfront used to be the lifeline of the city for centuries, apparent negligence became the tag decades ago. Policymakers hardly ever take the river route through the Buriganga. Therefore, Sadarghat perturbs them little. On the other hand, the majority of passengers must go to the southern edge of the city, where Sadarghat is located, getting a sour taste on the way and wasting hours in traffic jam on choked avenues and labyrinthine alleys. Therefore, those aspects of the project envisaged to ease pressure and dependence on Sadarghat will be applauded by everybody. A new riverport proposed near Postogola, a short distance downstream, and development of a full-fledged new inland port at Narayanganj are welcome parts of the project. Larger docks will be facilitated with shorter piers, also known as `finger piers', jutting out of them. A new feature for the proposed river ports, this should have come about much earlier in land-scarce Bangladesh. The government should also think of connecting the new ports through fast-track roads or railways, maybe underground facilities, so that people and merchandise can get there free of hassle.
The fact that a formal presentation has been made with the presence of the minister concerned on feasibility study points to the seriousness attached to groundwork. Earlier, absence of this led to oversights. Besides, projects used to suffer in the implementation phase. The fact that the World Bank is involved proves the project's acceptance as a serious undertaking. What we will wait to see is how the implementation phase of the project advances. It has been a nagging issue with most projects that neither timeline nor budgetary limitation had been adhered to. We hope the current project will stick to all parameters and achieve its desired outputs and outcomes by the time set. As Sadarghat is linked to the rest of the country's waterways through navigable channels that connect it to the trio of Padma, Meghna and Jamuna river systems, its improvement is destined to advance water transport everywhere else.
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