PM slams environmentalists’ silence on Ghoshiakhali channel

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today came down heavily on the country's environmentalists for their silence about the crucial Mongla-Ghoshiakhali River Channel that was inoperative for long 21 years.

The premier said the channel remained inoperative for long 21 years after 1975 and thus destroyed the habitat of wild animals in the Sundarbans. But the environmentalists are now making a hue and cry for the Sundarbans although the (Rampal) power plant is being set up 14 kilometers away from the Sundarbans, she said.

"I never heard the environmentalists say a word when the Ghoshiakhali channel was closed alongside closing the access points of some 234 connecting canals and leasing them out for shrimp enclosures," she said.

Sheikh Hasina was addressing a function while inaugurating the re-excavated Mongla Ghoshiakhali River channel alongside 11 newly built dredgers and 76 auxiliary vessels from her official Ghanabhaban residence through video conferencing.

Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan spoke on the occasion while Water Resources Minister Anisul Islam Mahmud, PM's Political Affairs Adviser HT Imam, Media Adviser Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury, Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Food Ministry Abdul Wadud Dara were present among others, while PM's Principal Secretary Md Abul Kalam Azad moderated it.

The premier said that due to closing of the Ghoshiakhali channel, the marine vessels and ships had to ply through the Shyala river endangering the habitat of dolphins, Royal Bengal Tigers and other wild animals.

After the assassination of Bangabandhu in 1975, she said, the BNP and the successive governments did not take any step to dredge the Ghoshiakhali channel, rather misused it in many ways and thus made the Mongla port inoperative.

She said that Ziaur Rahman, Ershad and then Khaleda Zia destroyed the channel through leasing out some 234 connecting canals in the Sundarbans for shrimp enclosures.

Sheikh Hasina said that the movement of vessels through the Shyala River was very much harmful for the Sundarbans.

To maintain the navigability of countrywide rivers and canals, the Prime Minister also put emphasis on conducting round-the-year maintenance dredging.

Sheikh Hasina said she had already ordered the Water Resources Ministry to dredge some 83 big canals near the Sundarbans.

The dredging of the channel started on July 1, 2014 to improve navigability so that large vessels could pass through it. The aim was to protect the Sundarbans and save time and fuel.

Nearly 182 lakh cubic metres of silt have so far been removed from a 26-km stretch of the 31-km Mongla-Ghoshiakhali channel. Besides, 62.12 lakh cubic metres of silt was removed during maintenance dredging. Eight dredgers are still at work in the channel.

The channel's dredging had shortened river routes by about 81 km. A total of Tk. 250 crore has been spent on the project.

The Mongla-Ghashiakhali channel is an international protocol route between India and Bangladesh. Imported goods can be easily transported through this channel to the country's north-southern region.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had inaugurated the route, constructed by the BIWTA in November 1972-74, to link Mongla Port, Khulna and Noapara with other parts of the country.

Earlier, Sheikh Hasina inaugurated a 50,000 metric tons capacity silo with jetty at Joymonirghol around 17 kilometer downstream of Mongla Port through video conferencing from her official Ganobhaban residence today.

Speaking on the occasion, the premier said that the population of the country is increasing and for this there is a need to ensure food security. "So, we'll have to take measures for food grains preservation alongside boosting production. Considering this, this silo has been build in Mongla."

Sheikh Hasina said that the aim of her government is not only to boost food grains production, but also to stock those for long so that there is no problem if there is any crisis, there is no need to beg from others for food or the government could meet the demand of its people during such time.

Blasting the BNP-Jamaat government for making the Mongla port totally inoperative during their misrule, the premier said that whenever BNP-Jamaat assumed office, they launched a devastating plan and made the country totally dependent on others. "On the other hand, whenever AL assumes power, it makes the country self reliant so that the country could move ahead with its head high, not begging from others," she said. She said that another new silo is being constructed in Shantahar to strengthen the food security measures of the country.

The aim of constructing the silo is to strengthen the regional food security at the South Western region of the country alongside reducing misuse through unloading food grains automatically from the marine vessels at Mongla Port.

Under the project, a jetty having a 5,000 square meter space has been built while two pneumatic unloaders have been set up supplied by a Belgian company to directly unloading wheat from the ships through this jetty. It would be possible to unload some 400 metric tons of wheat per hour through these two unloaders.

At the same time, a loader machine has been installed through which it would be possible to supply some 200 metric tons of wheat to Khulna PUP and other parts of the country from the Mongla silo.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)