After the recent ceremonial openings of the Dhaka Metro Rail or the Mass Rapid Transit-6 and the Dhaka Elevated Expressway, the city's communication sector appears to have undergone a spectacular transformation. To define it briefly, after the start of the construction of long flyovers, embarking on the two mega communication projects emerges as two major events of far-reaching impacts on the life of the greater Dhaka residents. The authorities executing the projects deserve plaudits. All of these projects have added to the facilitation of the people's life in this fast-expanding metropolis. The residents on the verge of reaping the full benefits of the new communication infrastructure now look forward to the rest left incomplete. The work on these projects goes on in full swing.
Against this backdrop, many people cannot but recall a number of communication ventures which were undertaken or planned in the past. Thanks to procrastinations, lack of coordination between different authorities and the dearth of necessary funds, many such projects have recurrently been put on the back burner. They include the dual-gauge rail lines and the high-speed trains on Dhaka-Ctg route for now. Among them, the project of the expansion of rail communication to the southeastern region, centring on the Cox's Bazar town, has stood out with its distinctive features.
In the contexts of short-, mid- , and long-distance communication within Dhaka city and outside, a number of Dhaka dwellers cannot forget the dream of the circular waterway operating on all four sides of the city. Those who backed, and warmly welcomed, the unique project now literally feel perplexed and disillusioned. Many have travelled along the route at intervals during the time of the nearly last two decades. They may now have lost hope of seeing the circular waterway in operation again, at least in the near future. But had there been repeated all-out efforts to see the extraordinary water communication project materialise, the people of the greater Dhaka would have been greatly benefited. There was a flip side. The ground realities turned worse than those which had been prevailing in the past.
It's the people residing chiefly in the western and the northern parts of Dhaka who would have been benefited by the circular river route. The rivers comprising the fully complete waterway around Dhaka would total at six. This communication network, dependent on small motor-launches or water-buses, was supposed to connect the Sadarghat-Babubazar area with western Mohammadpur, Basila, Rayerbazar and Ashulia. In between, there were stations like Shinnir Tek, and Aminbazar in Mirpur.
The passenger vessels in the region of Dhaka north have long been replaced by trawlers filled with sands dredged from the bottom of the rivers, especially the Turag. According to the original plan, the greater Dhaka circular launch route was set up to operate and extend up to Kachpur Bridge from Ashulia to go further east up to Ichhapur. The plan of the route was taken by the policymakers dealing with both the capital's road traffic movement, plagued by gridlocks, and the prospects for an effective circular waterway. Thanks to the road traffic congestions, many students attending colleges and a university in the older part of Dhaka had to go through the gruelling experiences on the roads. There are virtually no direct bus services between Dhaka's north-western and southern points. The full operation of the circular waterway would have freed the bus travellers from the sufferings.
Apart from the commuters, the circular waterway would have benefited the traders, who had to make daily business trips between the city's western and southern points. Plans were underway to expand the route to the rivers lying in the eastern part of the capital. They include Balu and Shitalakhya on the east, Bongshi and Turag on the west, Tongi Khaal to the north, and Dhaleshwari on the western periphery. There are few fast-sprawling cities in the world in the present times which are surrounded by so many rivers.
But thanks to the unabated increase in the rivers' pollution and siltation, the small passenger vessels have found it difficult to move smoothly. A 574 km main segment of the waterway project would have witnessed the operation of the vessels. The plan for allowing small motor-launches on the route had been taken to facilitate their shuttling between places in the greater Dhaka. Thanks to the natural adversities like reduced navigability of the rivers, the shuttling of launches eventually proved quite difficult. The launches found it difficult to move from one river station to another. Apart from the drop in navigability of the Buriganga channels due to their natural shrinking caused by the dumping of solid wastes into them near Dhaka, there were many other impediments.
The continued decrease in the current of those river-branches led to the slow death of many, with their water turning stagnant. Localised dredging of the Buriganga could have saved those channels, as well as the main river upstream. Encroachments on the otherwise free-flowing rivers to the north also contributed to the hampered movement of the vessels along the waterway route.
It's the ritual of repeated closures and re-openings of the motor launch shuttling, which led to a kind of disillusionment among the few passengers who had turned to the service for convenience. With a busy waterway network in place on all its four sides, Dhaka life may emerge unparalleled. An efficiently run circular waterway can make Dhaka city a unique one in global perspective. Unfortunately, the authorities continue to dawdle over the project.