The Chandpur Unit of the Bangladesh Coast Guard (BCG) has been hamstrung by an acute shortage of personnel and river vessels (speedboats) for a long time, station commander Lt. Foysol Bin Rashid told The Independent recently. Such shortages have affected the day-to-day activities of the station, particularly in the turbulent rivers in stormy weather.
Despite such constraints, however, the members of the Coast Guard have remained ever-vigilant and are discharging their duties and responsibilities honestly and with a sense of dedication and patriotism in their zone under the mighty Meghna and Padma, stretching over 90km, right from Shatnol area in Matlab North upazila via Chandpur Sadar till Haimchar upazila of the district.
Nearly 90 per cent of river crimes have been reduced in recent years, many people said. Extortion or toll collections from river vessels loaded with goods and hilsa and other varieties of fishes by a section of local extortionists on the river-beds have also been greatly reduced, much to the relief of local fishermen.
These views were echoed by several Coast Guard members at the office. They told this correspondent that because of the shortage of personnel, they face serious problems in combating river crimes and "jatka" netting in the rivers and in conducting rescue operations smoothly. Taking advantage of the shortage of Coast Guard members, the "jatka" fishermen engage in netting "jatka" round the year in the Meghna and Padma.
At present, the Chandpur station of the BCG has just 25 Coast Guard members and a couple of speedboats. The situation gets worse when one of these two vessels goes out of order during urgent or emergency operations because of technical problems in the middle of the river.
Given the volume of work, at least 150 Coast Guard members and a few more river vessels are essential now to run the operations smoothly and properly in the command area of this unit, said the station commander.
The office of the Chandpur Coast Guard unit is located on a serene, calm and quiet campus at Eacholy on the outskirts of the district town, just beside the low-flowing Dakatia, a tributary of the mighty Meghna. The Dakatia bifurcates and flows slowly through the district town.
In addition to this unit, there are two other small units, called Coast Guard outposts. While one is at the riverine Haimchar upazila, the other is at the riverine Ekhlaspur area in Matlab North upazila. Five Coast Guard members work at each of these outposts.
The government set up the river force known as the BCG in 1996 in order to combat robberies, piracies, smuggling of contraband goods and commodities, to preserve "jatka" fish fries in the sanctuary areas of the rivers during the period of the ban imposed by the government and to promptly carry out marine rescue operations. The Coast Guard works in tandem with the river police and the district administration and police.