SONUTIKRA (SAMBALPUR):Sonutikra Ghat on the outskirts of the city, which had fallen silent after the 2014 boat tragedy, was bustling with activity on Tuesday as boat services resumed nearly two years after it was closed.
The services resumed with operation of two boat services between Sonutikra and Marangdungri Ghat located across Hirakud Dam Reservoir (HDR) in Jharsuguda district. Though there was no public announcement regarding re-launch of services, the boat in its first trip from Sonutikra ferried three two-wheelers and four persons. The boats will make five trips across the HDR every day, said sources.
Boat services were stopped after a mechanised country boat carrying picnickers capsized in HDR on its way to Sonutikra Ghat under Dhankauda block here on February 9, 2014. The country boat was carrying picnickers of Lions Club, besides regular passengers.
Since then plying of two passenger boats between Sonutikra Ghat and Marangdungri Ghat was suspended affecting movement of passengers between the two districts.
Owner of the ill-fated boat, Satyanand Pandey, had repaired the damaged vessel and made it ready for ferrying but reluctance of the officials of Talab Gram Panchayat (GP), under which the ghat falls, led to delay in resumption of services.
District Panchayat Officer, Sambalpur BK Hota said they had requested Water Resources department to undertake management of Sonutikra Ferry Ghat but the department stated that the ghat should be managed by the GP concerned.
After much delay, Talab GP officials held auction for the ghat in August 2015. The auction was awarded to highest bidder Tulasi Behera of Sonutikra village for seven months till March 2016 at a price of `70,000. But as he did not own any boat, services could not be resumed.
Pandey, who was struggling to get his boats on the water, succeeded in getting the fresh auction for 2016-2017 in the name of his wife Manasi Pandey at a price of `1.01 lakh.
Pandey said his boats are equipped with life jackets, heavy duty life saving tubes, fire extinguishers, lifeline rope and first aid box to prevent recurrence of 2014-like incident. This apart, he also has procured licence and insurance as per the rules laid down by the district administration for running the boats.
The country boats were used to ferry people and vehicles to villages in the periphery of the reservoir daily. In fact, these boats have been providing alternative travel options to people of Lakhanpur, Belpahar and Banharpali in Jharsuguda district which are situated on one side of reservoir and Sambalpur town and Rengali in Sambalpur district besides Ambhabhona block in Bargarh district.
First ferry ghat in HDR was operated in 1970 at Rampela in Lakhanpur block in Jharsuguda district
Similar ghats were developed at Bagmunda in Rampela GP and Taladihi, Parta and Marang in Tilia GP in Lakhanpur block
Ferry ghats also started operating at Tiligi, Dhulunda, Sardha and Mahudi, Padampur and Mahulpali in Lakhanpur block