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Dhaka Tribune

Boats on Kaptai Lake threaten tourists’ lives

Unregistered boats with unlicensed drivers taking on passengers beyond capacity are putting passengers’ lives at risk

Update : 03 Mar 2020, 10:42 PM

Around one thousand small and large mechanized boats ply Kaptai Lake in Rangamati without authorization from the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA).

These boats lack valid registration papers and fitness certificates. On top of that they are operated by unskilled drivers who do not have licenses, said Moinuddin Selim, president of the Rangamati launch owner’s association.

“Speedboats tend to ferry 10-15 passengers and that too without any lifejackets onboard,” he said.

However, Md Rubel, general secretary of Parjatan Noujan Boat Chalok Samiti (Tourist Vessel Driver’s Association), said: “Our boats always have life jackets onboard, but tourists are often reluctant to put them on.”

Locals say boats have been operating on Kaptai Lake disregarding standard safety measures for quite a while now, but there has been no visible action from the authorities concerned.

On February 14, five people drowned when a motorized boat sank on Kaptai Lake in Rangamati district. The boat was reportedly carrying passengers beyond its capacity. 

Following the incident, mobile courts have been conducting drives at various points upon directives from the district administration.

An emergency meeting of the district administration decided to ban all boats without fitness certificates, mandate the use of life jackets, and order the removal of sun shades from boats operating on  Kaptai Lake.

Shyamol, a tourist in Rangamati, said: “We should be aware about boarding a boat that already has passengers beyond its capacity. Also, we should check for life jackets before getting on boats.”

Following the drowning incident on February 14, complaints were filed with police stations about boats capsizing on the lake. However no action was taken, nor was anyone brought to book. 

Executive Magistrate Uttam Kumar Das of Rangamati district administration, said: “The district administration, river police, tourist police, and BIWTA have been working to raise awareness among tourists and drivers alike. We have kept the mobile court drives active. We have also suggested to BIWTA that they issue licences to operating vessels after evaluating their fitness.”

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