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Why have water bus projects failed to float?

Why have water bus projects failed to float?

Illustration: Mamunur Rashid/BFirst

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Since 2010, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation launched a total of 11 water buses in different river routes surrounding Dhaka city. However, most of the water buses have already gone out of service

Ariful Islam Mithu

Publisted at 1:31 PM, Fri Jun 28th, 2024

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The government’s initiatives to operate water buses on the water routes surrounding Dhaka city to reduce road traffic in the capital have failed to show results as the city dwellers do not show any interest in commuting in water buses. 

Since 2010, the state-owned Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC) launched a total of 11 water buses in different river routes surrounding Dhaka city.

However, most of the water buses have already gone out of service while the remaining five water buses are used to ferry passengers from one side of the Buriganga to another.

The government, for the first time, took initiative to build circular waterways around the capital and operate water buses in 2000 and introduced two water buses on the Ashulia-Sadarghat route in 2004. 

However, the operation of water buses went out of service within a short time.

The government took the initiative to reopen the route with two water buses again in 2010. 

A 30-kilometre water route from Sadarghat to Ashulia was built at a cost of Tk40 crore. Later, a 40km Tongi-Rajakhali-Demra-Kanchpur water route was established at a cost of Tk54 crore.

BIWTC Director (Commercial) SM Ashikuzzaman said they are now operating a total of five water buses for ferrying passengers from one side of the Buriganga River to another.

He said the main reason behind the failure of the project was the poor communication system connecting to the landing stations. As a result, passengers do not find it easy to get on the water buses.

According to the official, other reasons include the low number of water buses – resulting in longer waiting time for passengers.

“Sometimes, passengers can get a bus and come to the Gabtoli area from the Sadarghat area in one hour through the Sadarghat-Gabtoli route, but if one takes a water bus, it takes one and half an hour. As a result, passengers show more interest in taking road transport,” he added.

The stench of river Buriganga is another reason for people’s disinterest, said SM  Ashikuzzaman. 

According to Adil Mohammed Khan, professor of urban and regional planning at Jahangir University, the main reason behind the failure of the project was not taking into consideration the passengers’ demands and needs.

“Sometimes, water bus projects do not succeed because passengers want speed when it comes to transport. Connecting roads to the landing station or ghats were in poor conditions, and the waiting time for water buses is long,” said Adil Mohammed Khan.

“If authorities cannot maintain the frequency of the water buses, passengers will not show any interest and as a result,” he added.

Adil Mohammed Khan said the government will have to devise a plan to introduce water buses surrounding the rivers after proper demand assessment.

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