Horse-drawn carts are the main mode of transport in arctic char areas

Although horse-drawn carts are a thing of the past in most parts of the world, these outdated buggies still make it easy to get around the 450-cart zones in Kurigram and Lalmonirhat.

There are 20,000 horse-drawn carts carrying goods and ferrying passengers through the chariot areas of the Brahmaputra, Teesta, Dharla, Dudhkumar and Gangadhar rivers, where the lack of tarred roads makes it difficult for heavy vehicles to navigate through the region.

Thus, traditional horse-drawn carts are mainly used for this purpose and as such, many local families depend on these carts for a source of income.

“I transport passengers on boats across the Brahmaputra River when there is sufficient flow during the monsoon season, then I work as a coachman in the char areas for the rest of the year,” said Nazrul Mandal of Astomir chariot in the Chilmari upazila of Kurigram.

“We transport agricultural products from the tank areas to the mainland and also bring back necessary goods. Sometimes people use our wagons to transport sick people to hospitals,” he added.

About 30 to 50 horse-drawn carts and carriages are used daily to transport goods in each char area.

“We get 30 Tk to 35 Tk to transport one maund (about 40 kilograms) of goods for four to five kilometres. We can transport up to 15 maunds of goods on each trip,” said Idris Ali, a Char Karai coachman. Barishal in Chilmari upazila.

“On average, I earn Tk 1,200 a day and half of that is spent on buying the horse’s feed,” he added.

Each coachman usually has at least two to three horses in his stable.

“I made a horse-drawn cart using old rings, motor vehicle tires and tubes, wood and bamboo, spending about Tk60,000,” said Mansur Ali, a charioteer from Char Gobordhan. in the Aditmari upazila of Lalmonirhat.

After building his buggy, Ali then bought a pair of horses for Tk one lakh.

After that he started using it to transport people and goods through the sandy char areas.

“A horse-drawn cart costs about half the price of an ox-cart and can travel on sandy land much more easily than its bull-driven counterpart,” Ali added.

According to Atiar Rahman, Char Shiberkuti Driver in Lalmonirhat sadar upazila, the drivers see good income during the dry season from November to June as people have to use horse-drawn carts to transport goods as boat services are interrupted when the river level drops.

He went on to say that the use of horse-drawn carts is increasing day by day, providing more job opportunities for locals.

Jahangir Ala, owner of a grocery store in Char Shakha, Chilmari upazila of Kurigram, told the Daily Star that he transports goods from the mainland by boat between July and October, but when the river dries up from November in June, he rides a horse. carts pulled to transport goods.

If horse-drawn carts were not available, it would not be possible to quickly operate businesses in char areas.

“So our trade policy in the char area depends on horse-drawn carts,” he said.

Surendra Nath Sarker, a businessman from the upazila town of Ulipur in Kurigram, told the Daily Star that they buy agricultural products produced in char areas.

“So horse-drawn carts in the char areas became part of our business,” Sarler said.

Kuddus Bapari, a farmer from an isolated cart called Parbati in Kurigram sadar upazila, told the Daily Star that they hire horse-drawn carts to transport agricultural produce to mainland markets to sell at a fair price. .

“A few years ago, when there were no facilities for horse-drawn carts in the char area, we had to use ox carts but it was not easy. We even transported some goods by hand,” he said.

Sirajul Islam, a char herder at Char Sardob in Kurigram sadar upazila, said that many chars, unable to afford the price of horse carts, still carry goods themselves, walking for miles on sandy ground.

“Residents of Char have urged the government to organize free transport on the coupes for the sick and the elderly as well,” he added.

Fedous Rahman, head of the Kurigram district cooperative, told the Daily Star that horse-drawn carts play an important role in transporting goods and passengers in char areas.

Arranging easy term loans from banks would encourage more people to buy or start horse cart businesses.

Driver of a horse-drawn cart at Char Katamari in Lalmonirhat sadar upazila, said they roam their carts in an area of ​​19 kilometers in the chariot.

“We transport goods from the riverside area and connect to the local market on the char area,” he said.

About 12 to 15 years ago, goods were transported on horseback. Buffalo carts were also used at that time, but horse-drawn carts were put in place of the buffaloes as they can move slowly over the land of arctic char,” Rahman said.

A grocery wholesaler at Chilmari Bazar in Chilmari upazila said he sends different goods weighing 100 to 120 maunds to 15 or 16 local businessmen in char area markets every day.

At least 60-65 Chilmari market wholesalers send goods to and from the char traders every day.

“Traders in the char areas transport these goods by horse-drawn carts,” he said, adding that Chilmari Bazaar is located about 400 meters from the Brahmaputra River.

Kurigram District Animal Husbandry Officer Dr Abdul Hai Sarker told the Daily Star that it is an old tradition to use horses to transport goods in tank areas.

“The horses that are used to handle the horse-drawn carts are well trained and these horses take extra feed,” Abdul said.

“Trained horses are used to moving better on the char area, and of course they need hourly rests,” he said.

A grocery wholesaler at Chilmari Bazar in Chilmari upazila in Kurigram told the Daily Star that he sends different goods of 100 to 120 maunds to 15 to 16 local businessmen in char area markets every day.

At least 60-65 wholesalers located in the Chilmari market send goods to and from the char traders every day.

“Traders in the char areas transport these goods by horse-drawn carts,” he said, adding that Chilmari Bazaar is located about 400 meters from the Brahmaputra River.

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