The only traffic one would face while riding the first water taxi service in the capital is the one in front of the ticket booth.
People waiting in the line don’t mind though. Meet Mizanur Rahman, owner of a stationary shop for instance.
“I don’t think there is a better way of reaching Rampura from Karwan Bazar now. I have been using this service since its inauguration on December 16.”
Mizan informed that the water in Hatirjheel has a bit of a stench. “But that doesn't bothering me. I only need to pay Tk30 to reach Rampura from FDC within 15-20 minutes. To cover that same distance in a CNG, it would have cost me four times as much and at least thrice the amount of time.”
“Besides, the water taxi doesn’t only serve as a ferry, it also feels like a joy ride.”
AR Faruqe, a student who was found waiting in line at the FDC jetty on Sunday noon said that he just came here to enjoy the ride.
“My friend posted pictures of the water taxi ride on Facebook. After seeing the pictures, I got very interested, thus I came here today to take the ride with my friends.”
About the taxis, he said that these brand new bright orange water vessels with blue seats are indeed beautiful. “Amidst the traffic, clogged Dhaka roads, these bright water vessels in a beautiful place like Hatirjheel is like a fresh breath of air.”
A much needed service
Although long overdue, the water taxi service did indeed appear to be a breath of fresh air in Dhaka’s commuting system.
Already dubbed as one of the worst jam-packed megacities, Dhaka’s commuting network is like a heart with clogged arteries, on the verge of collapse.
Only seven percent of this city of about 17 million people is covered by roads even though, as per the global ideal, any standard city of five million dwellers should have around 25 percent of its space covered with road networks.
Dhaka also suffers from the absence of a deliberate road network, feeder streets leading to arterial leading to highways. There are 650 major intersections, one tenth of these intersections have traffic management systems with traffic lights or live traffic police.
Because of this lack of road network and proper infrastructure, the speed of vehicles in Dhaka city has slowed down over the years – 21.2 kilometres per hour in 2004, 15.1 kph in 2009 and 6.8 kph in 2015, said the report titled “State of cities: Traffic congestion in Dhaka city – governance perspective,” conducted by BRAC university in 2016.
Under the circumstances, urban planners have long been talking about implementing alternative commuting systems to ease up the load on roads.
When the Tk2,236 crore Hatirjheel project was launched in July 2007, it had integrated a plan of introducing water ways to ferry passengers across different points surrounding the Hatirjheel area. The Hatirjheel project was partially opened to public in January 2013. The waterway however, was opened almost four years later on December 16 last year.
So far, so good
Shohel Ahmed Babu, project in-charge of the water taxi service said that since its inauguration, they have received responses beyond their expectations.
“Go to Facebook and type water taxi services in Dhaka, you will find hundreds of people posting pictures and comments praising the service. They are loving it.”
He said that four water taxis, each ferrying 45 passengers are active on the 3.45 kilometre waterway now. Two more taxis will be added into the fleet within two weeks. The cost of each vessel is Tk85 lakh.
Babu said that so far the service is available in two routes. Commuters can now travel from Karwan Bazar to Badda and Karwan Bazar to Rampura via a terminal near FDC at Hatirjheel and vice versa. The admission from FDC to Rampura is Tk25 and from Badda to Link Road, it is Tk30.
After observing the high volume of passengers in these two routes, they are planning to introduce another 8-10 taxis within the next few months.
He also said the route will be expanded depending on the demand. As part of a larger project, another set of water taxis are scheduled to be introduced to the Gulshan-Banani-Baridhara Lake very soon.
Hatirjheel project director Md Jamal Akhtar Bhuiyan said that the service eases travel to Karwan Bazar, Moghbazar, Dilu Road, Eskaton, Bangla Motor and Tejgaon for people from Badda, Gulshan, Rampura, Khilgaon and other eastern parts of the city.
“As it is proven to be successful, we will soon expand the project into Gulshan lake through Baridhara,” he said.
-A water taxi is a watercraft used to provide public or private transport, usually, but not always, in an urban environment.
-Engines for the water taxis of Hatirjheel were bought from China. The taxis are being assembled at a workshop in Chittagong.
-Each taxi has a small canteen, which sells cakes, biscuits and other light snacks.
-Earlier, water bus service was inaugurated in the circular waterways surrounding Dhaka by the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation in 2013. Due to irregularities and inconsistency of the service, it failed to gain popularity.