- Around 2,000-2,500 vehicles use Paturia-Daulatdia route every day
- Navigability crisis, strong current and fog often cause suspension of ferry services
- Fog lights were installed on ferries to keep services uninterrupted
- Ferry masters and engineers say the lights cannot penetrate dense fog
- There were allegations of corruption and irregularity over the light purchase
- No respite in sight for Dhaka-bound patients, elderly people and others
Dense fog continues to cause suspension of ferry services on the Paturia-Daulatdia route almost every night despite the fact that ten water vessels of the route installed fog lights in 2015 spending Tk5 crore.
Requesting anonymity, a number of ferry masters of the route have told The Business Standard that the quality of the lights is so poor that they cannot penetrate dense fog.
"It makes no difference to have these lights and not to have them," said one of the masters on condition of anonymity. There are also several media reports which suggest massive corruption and irregularities in the fog light purchase in 2015.
The ferry services connect around 21 south and southwestern districts with the capital Dhaka. On average, approximately 2,000-2,500 buses, trucks and cars use the route every day.
However, inclement weather, navigability crisis and dense fog in winter lead often to a suspension of ferry services -- causing sufferings for passengers and transport workers. And the fog-led ferry suspension owing to low visibility has become quite frequent on the advent of this year's chilly winter.
To alleviate the sufferings of passengers, fog and search lights were installed on ten ferries of the route in April 2015. Ferry masters say the lights help navigation in mild foggy weather, but they cannot penetrate dense fog -- resulting in service suspension as soon as fog shrouds the river.
Afzal Hossain, a Jashore-bound passenger, told TBS on Monday afternoon that he had left Dhaka for his village due to an emergency. But he was stranded at the terminal with his family for about nine hours since midnight.
They were waiting for the fog to lift as there were no alternative means to cross the river.
Traders in perishable items, ambulances, older people, women and children are the worst sufferers of the service suspension.
Anwara Khatun, a bus passenger, said the vehicle she was in got stuck three kilometres before the ferry terminal due to the service suspension. Her bus would not move even an inch in the next six hours.
Anwara said sufferings were immense as there were no restaurants and toilets beside the road.
Feroz Mia, driver of a Dhaka-bound vegetable truck from Jashore, said he arrived at the ferry terminal at around 11:00 pm but the ferry service was suspended at midnight. He had to wait the rest of the night there for the service to resume once the fog abated.
Although the cauliflower-laden vehicle was supposed to arrive in Dhaka's wholesale market in the morning, Anwar Sheikh of the truck and other vegetable traders at the terminal were worried over supplying the agri-produce to the market during daytime when police bar heavy vehicle from running on Dhaka streets.
While contacted, Shariful Islam, executive engineer of Madhumati Floating Repair Factory at Paturia terminal, said, "Though the vessels have fog lights, these lights cannot help ferries navigate through the foggy weather."
Therefore, he said, they have to suspend ferry services in the dense fog to avert accidents.
Zillur Rahman, deputy general manager of the Aricha office of the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation, advised this correspondent to communicate with the head office instead of asking him anything about the lights.
He, however, agreed that there is no means of alleviating the sufferings of passengers on the Paturia-Daulatdia route during ferry suspension or traffic congestion.