Bangladesh to digitally monitor dredging works

Bangladesh waterway in Sadarghat. Credit: World Bank

Bangladesh is preparing a software to digitally monitor the dredging works carried out in inland waters. Dredgers engaged in digging will remain connected with the monitoring system through the software.

A piece of tracking equipment will be installed in each dredger, synchronised with the software, which will allow authorities to monitor the volume of waste each dredger digs and how much dredging is needed further.

There is widespread allegation against dredging companies and contractors that they take away bills without carrying out dredging in line with the specification mentioned in the work orders.

As a result, the rivers need to be dredged every year by spending billions from the public exchequer. Despite that, Bangladeshi rivers still suffer from low water draught and vessels will get stuck in waters during the dry season.

Carrying goods through waterways becomes more difficult during the winter and vessels face severe disruption.  

The length of inland waterways in Bangladesh during the rainy season is about 24,000 km, which goes down to 6,000 km in winter. The water depth goes as low as 1.5 m in some rivers and during winter while the draught needs to be raised at least 6 m for smooth plying of vessels.

Joint chief of the ministry of shipping Rafique Ahmed Siddique said the software will help stop fraudulent acts by dredging companies and ensure proper dredging of the rivers.

“We want to promote goods transportation through waterways instead of the congested road. Carrying goods by waterways is cost-effective,” he told DPC.

Siddique said a massive dredging programme will be undertaken “to ensure proper dredging in line with the plan, [and] we’re preparing the monitoring software”.

The proper dredging of the rivers will also aid tourism in Bangladeshi waterways, he added.    

Another shipping ministry official said the preparing of the software is almost completed and is expected to start trial operation by this month. “Once the monitoring software is in the operation, the spending on dredging works will go down significantly,” he said.

In the meantime, a dredging master plan has set a target to dig some 10,000 km of rivers to enhance their navigability facilitating water transportation. Under the master plan, about 178 rivers will be dredged in the next five years.

The Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority is now dredging 12 rivers and is planning to carry out capital dredging in 53 river routes. The authority is also working to rescue a number of rivers from encroachment.