The government has decided to allow vessels to ply through the Shela River in the Sundarbans during daytime from tomorrow.
However, a ban still remains on vessel movement through the route at night as well as during foggy and rough weather.
Besides, oil tanker and coastal ships will be barred from using the route.
The decision, which came at an inter-ministerial meeting today, was taken for the sake of agriculture, industries and livelihoods of water transport workers, said a shipping ministry’s press statement.
While taking the decision, the meeting gave maximum emphasis on protecting the Sundarbans and its biodiversity, the statement claimed.
The members of Bangladesh Coast Guard will be deployed for traffic management at the river and to check fitness certificate of the vessels using the route.
Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), Forest Department, Mongla Port Authority and Department of Shipping will cooperate with the coastguards to perform the task, the statement added.
Besides, the government will procure necessary equipments and vessels to cope with any accidents similar to the recent oil spill in future.
The meeting also decided to complete the dredging of Mongla-Ghasiakhali channel by the next June to restore its navigability.
Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan chaired the meeting, while Environment and Forest Minister Anwar Hossain Manju and top government officials attended the meeting at the shipping ministry’s conference room.
The government imposed a ban on plying of vessels through the Shela River for an indefinite period following the oil spill from a sunken tanker in the river on December 9 last year.
The ministry’s statement said around 500 vessels got stranded at both ends of the river route since the ban was imposed, resulting in a negative impact on trading.
Vessel owners, workers and other businessmen are facing huge losses as the supply of raw materials to different industries remains suspended.
In this circumstance, different business bodies and water transport owners and workers had been demanding a resolution to the problem.
Plying of commissarial vessels in large numbers through the Shela River started in 2011 when the Mongla-Ghasiakhali channel was shut down due to navigability crisis. Around 10,000 commercial vessels ply through the river annually.
An expert team of the United Nations has recently suggested avoiding shipping through the Sundarbans, while many other environmental organisations repeatedly demanded a permanent ban on the movement of commercial vessels through the Shela River.
WORK ABSTENTION WITHDRAWN
Following the government decision, Bangladesh Noujan Sramik Federation withdrew its earlier announced work abstention.
The workers’ federation at a press conference this morning announced to enforce countrywide work abstention from the early hours of Thursday to press home their demand for allowing vessel movement through the Shela River.
Published: 9:24 pm Tuesday, January 06, 2015
Last modified: 10:08 pm Tuesday, January 06, 2015