15 minutes inside Dhaka’s Venice
You might think of Venice when asked to name a town with picturesque waterways, but if it’s a lovely view from the water that you want, you don’t have to go much further than Dhaka. The juxtaposition of the two cities might sound rhetorical and in fact it is. However, if you dream of floating across a picturesque waterway in the chaotic Dhaka avoiding the city hubbub, you are in luck.
Hatirjheel, the lakefront in Dhaka which has been transformed into transportation medium for minimizing traffic congestion, now provides awater taxi service with a number of 14 vessels and is becoming an increasingly popular mode of transport as it is found to be cost effective, quick and quite scenic.
Currently, the service runs on four routes – Gudaraghat in Gulshan 1 to FDC, Merul-Badda to FDC and FDC to Merul Badda and Gudaraghat. I decided to take the ride from the Gudaraghat point and bought a ticket to the FDC point that costs a mere Tk15. The queue was not too long as it was a holiday and I had to wait only 15 minutes for the boat to depart.
According to the Counter Master, the rush hour on a working day usually coincides with the office hours as most of the people living around the lakefront find it easier and effective to use the water taxi service. So, if you are in for a recreational ride on a working day, it’s better to avoid these hours.
The vessels are of different sizes and capacities ranging from a minimum 30 people to as high as 90 on a busy day. I hopped into the waiting boat and my journey started right away. It was a hot summer day in the afternoon but the malodorous yet soporific wind on the lake made me forget the absence of a cooling system in the boat.
The short lived water ride turned out to be an amazing one as I kicked back on by seat, and travelled through the vibrant urban heart. The beauty of the colossal Hatirjheel Lake garnished with greenery and the massive architectural fixture clothed in dazzling lights looks larger than life when seen from the water. Although the stench from the polluted lake water hit hard and threatened to suffocate at the beginning, after a few minutes into the ride I got used to it, thanks partly to my adaptability but also to the distractingly beautiful express road, modern bridge and walkways of Hatirjheel.
On a regular working day, it takes almost an hour to reach FDC from Gulshan using the usual road route. The waterway cuts the time in quarter.
The lake authority also has a number of 20 pedal boats (2 seater and 4 seater) for recreational rides. A thirty minutes pedaling on the scenic lake with your dearest one will cost you Tk150- Tk300 based on the capacity of the boat.
The water taxi ride in the lake is completely safe as the operating boats are made of unsinkable fiberglass. Moreover, life jackets and lifeguards are available on board in case of any emergency.
Even then, there are some major drawbacks to the service. Apart from malodorous water, the queues are long and each taxi waits 15 minutes extra for passengers to arrive before departing. Passengers also need to walk a fair bit from the landing location to the main road.
Fourteen water taxis, which will soon be extended to eighteen, cruise the water body from 6:00am and 10:00pm every day. The service has brought a significant change to the transport service in the capital and is making a huge impact in the lives of commuters living around the lake travelling to Karwan Bazar, Moghbazar, Dilu Road, Eskaton, Bangla Motor and Tejgaon areas from Badda, Gulshan, Rampura, Khilgaon and other eastern parts of the city.
According to a project official, the service will gradually be expanded to Gulshan Lake through Baridhara and a new route from Gulshan Police Plaza to FDC is currently in talks.
If you want to take a water taxi ride in these summer months, be sure to avoid the rush hours, make an early start and enjoy the ambience of the quiet lake in the coolness of the morning before the temperatures rises and the crowds flood in.