The Paturia-Daulatdia river ferry route is one of the main ways of communication between the capital and about 21 south-western districts of the country.
About 5,000 large and small vehicles pass through this busiest route daily.
Sources said there are three reasons behind traffic jams on Paturia-Daulatdia route — shortage of ferries on the route, dilapidated condition of the ferries, and strong current of the Padma River.
Suffering of people increases at both the ferry wharf areas of the river whenever the number of vehicles increases ahead of any festival or during natural calamity.
The authorities then allow the buses, small cars and emergency vehicles to cross the river on a priority basis to alleviate the suffering of passengers.
But, the drivers and workers of goods-laden trucks become the victim of prolonged misery, waiting day after day on the Dhaka-Aricha highway and Paturia ferry ghat to cross the river.
As a result, besides incurring financial losses, the truck drivers face immense physical suffering also.
Although the suffering of passengers and drivers is a regular phenomenon, the ghat authorities are indifferent to their plight. They have demanded permanent relief from this suffering within the shortest possible time.
Shortage of ferry on the river route
Ten large and eight medium and small-sized ferries run on the Paturia-Daulatdia route for the crossing of about 5000 vehicles every day.
Large vehicles are now crossing the Padma through Paturia-Daulatdia route after the ferry service on the Banglabazar-Shimulia route disrupted recently, creating regular traffic jam in the ghat area as thousands of cargo trucks wait hour after hour to cross the river.
Stakeholders demanded at least two more large ferries on the Paturia-Daulatdia route to alleviate the suffering of the people.
Old dilapidated ferry
The ferries plying on the Paturia-Daulatdia route are several decades old. Besides the addition of new ferries, the old ones need to be renovated.
The ferries often stop in the middle of the river as the engine and other equipment are in a worn out condition. There is a floating repair factory called 'Madhumati' at Paturia ferry terminal for repairing the damaged ferries. Thousands of vehicles cross the river on these old ferries every day. Often three to four ferries break down at the same time, disrupting the communication on one of the busiest river routes of the country.
The current of the Padma
During the monsoon season, the Padma has strong currents. Usually, it takes 25 to 30 minutes to cross the river, but it takes about an hour during the peak of the rainy season. As a result, the number of trips decreases significantly creating ling traffic jams on both sides of the river.
As strong current is a common and regular issue in the river, the ghat authorities demanded inclusion of modern ferries keeping this issue in mind.
Although Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC) is a profitable service organisation of the government, authorities concerned are negligent towards this institution. The ghat authorities claim that this government institution will be more profitable if a few problems are solved.
During a visit at the Paturia ferry ghat on Saturday morning, Shamim Mia, a truck driver from Magura, told this correspondent, "I have been driving trucks on the Paturia-Daulatdia route regularly for about 15 years. I drive from Magura to Chattogram, Mymensingh and Gazipur most of the time.
Day after day, I have to wait at the ferry ghat to cross the river."
"In the ghat area, one person spends around Tk300 per day on food. There are other costs as well, about Tk100. The money earned from driving the truck for two or three days at a stretch is spent at the ghat if a traffic jam is created. The truck owner does not pay for this extra cost," he said.
Faruk Hossain, a truck driver from Dhamrai area, said that he used to travel to Benapole area regularly carrying goods from a factory in Dhamrai. "If there is a traffic jam in the ghat area, the police keep us waiting in different areas of the highway," he said.
Mohiuddin Russell, Assistant Manager, Commerce, BIWTC Aricha Office, said a total of 18 ferries ply on the Paturia-Daulatdia route, carrying about 5,000 vehicles daily. "During the monsoon, it becomes very difficult to ferry these vehicles as it takes almost double the time than other times of the year. It takes 25 to 30 minutes to cross the river at normal times. But now it takes about an hour because of the strong current in the river," he said.
Abdul Mannan, executive engineer of floating ferry repair factory Madhumati, said two to three ferries plying the Paturia-Daulatdia route come for repairs every day. Sometimes four to five ferries get stuck in the repair factory. "As we have adequate manpower, repairs can be done quickly. However, if there is a large amount of work, it takes 2/3 days or more to repair them," he said.
DGM Zillur Rahman of BIWTC Aricha office, said, "The ferries on the Paturia-Daulatdia route are quite old. That is why ferries often become out of use.
The number of ferries on the route is not adequate. Moreover, at present, ferries are taking twice as much time to cross the river than other times of the year. There are traffic jams in both the ghat areas. As a result, the suffering of passengers and drivers is increasing."
In order to reduce this suffering permanently, he continued, it is necessary to add at least two large ferries to the route. The issue has been reported to the authorities in black and white, but we are yet to get any response.
Zillur Rahman said that more than 1,000 trucks were waiting at the ghat areas on both sides to cross the river at 10:15am on Saturday.