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Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority

Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) was established in 1958 for development, maintenance and control of inland water transport and of certain inland navigable waterways. A network of about 24,000 km of rivers, canals, creeks and haors covers Bangladesh. In 2009 the navigable river routes in Bangladesh during the monsoon stretched about 6,000 km. The length is much less in the dry season. In 1972, the stretch of country's navigable inland waterways was 12,000 km. In 1974, 16% passengers and 37% of goods were carried by water transports. According to a government study carried out in 1994, 13% passengers and 32% of freight on inland waters were carried annually by mechanised water transport. Water Transports carried only 6% of passengers and 27% of freight in 2006. About 0.89 million-country boats carry about 1.2 million tons of freight annually. At present (2009), 90 million passengers travel and 20 million tons of freight is carried by inland waterways every year, although the rate of usage of water is reducing gradually.

According to official records, the mechanised vessels on waterways was introduced in East Bengal in 1844. BIWTA is the successor of the East Pakistan Inland Water Transport Authority (EPIWTA). At the initial stage, it consisted of the departments of traffic, conservancy and pilotage, waterways and port engineering, accounts and secretarial work. EPIWTA started its operations with only 37 officers in 1958. Later, following the establishment of 5 new river ports, a planning department was created in 1963, and the port directorate in 1964. The authority started operation in 1982 after the approval of present organogram. A dredging unit was established in 1991. The number of BIWTA officers now (2009) stands at 567. They work with the help of 3,720 supporting staff in 13 departments and a dredging unit, a workshop, and a training centre.

BIWTA is headed by a chairman. Two members, who directly control different departments, assist him, each headed by a director. Functions of BIWTA are broadly classified under two heads - development and maintenance, and regulatory functions. Functions of the first group include river conservancy work, dissemination of navigational' and meteorological information, pilotage and hydrographic services, planning, dredging activities, including development of new channels, development, maintenance and operation of inland river ports and terminal facilities, development of rural water transportation, training of sailors and masters, research on craft design, technique of towage, landing and terminal facilities and port installations, liaison with the government and promotion of IWT industry in general. The regulatory functions of BIWTA are to fix maximum and minimum fares and freight rates for inland water transport and to approve timetables for motor launches and steamers. In 2000, there were 739 passenger launches that operated in 200 routes, but now (2009), both the numbers have reduced to 646 and 186 respectively.

BIWTA maintains and supervises 21 riverports and 380 launch terminals. The riverports are: Dhaka, Narayanganj, Chandpur, Barisal, Khulna, Patuakhali, Bhairab-Ashuganj, Tongi, Bhola, Mawa, Baghabari, Narsingdi, Aricha, Nagarbari, Daulatdia, Charjanajat, Barguna, Noapara, Mirkadim, Meghnaghat and Chatak. The ferry ghats (terminals) under management of BIWTA are at Paturia, Chandpur, Daulatdia, Mangalmajhi, Shariatpur Mawa, Charjanajat, Bhola and Laxmipur. BIWTA has 475 barges, pontoons and flats and 86 vessels including 7 dredgers, 3 coastal survey ships, 10 launches and 19 workboats for survey and inspection, 6 tug ships, 2 salvage units, 1 training ship and 3 house boats. BIWTA conducts hydrographic surveys in 3,000 km of inland waterways and 1,000 sq. km. of coastal area every year. The volume of its annual dredging is about 5 million cubic metre.

BIWTA has implemented 137 development schemes since 1958 for increasing and improving essential facilities of river ports and launch stations, ferry ghats, hydrographic surveys, river dredging and pilotage services. In the 2009-2010 fiscal, BIWTA undertook ten projects to intensify its activities including a project to complete the circular waterways around Dhaka city and the beautification of the banks of Buriganga and other rivers. BIWTA's Deck Personnel Training Centre is the only marine institute in Bangladesh. It was set up at Narayanganj in 1971 for the inland water transport sector. The Institute offers 7 courses for the personnel of not only BIWTA, but also for the same of Bangladesh Fisheries Development Corporation, Bangladesh Rifles, Bangladesh Inland water Transport Corporation and deck workers of the armed forces. BIWTA has a marine workshop in Barisal, set up in 1960 with the financial support of the Federal Republic of Germany. [Mahbubul Alam]