Enayet Karim with Ayub Ali: Sampan-the traditional boat of Chattogram, is on the verge of extinction due to arrival of mechanized boats and modernization of the form of river crafts. Once upon a time the Sampan boat was aridity of Chittagong for its wave tolerance especially in the river Karnaphuli.
Sampan is a relatively flat-bottomed Chinese and Malay wooden boat. Some sampans include a small shelter on board and may be used as a permanent habitation on inland waters. Sampans are generally used for transportation in coastal areas or rivers and are often used as traditional fishing boats. It is unusual for a sampan to sail far from land, as they do not have the means to survive rough weather.
The word ‘sampan’ comes from the original Cantonese term for the boats, literally meaning ‘three planks’. The name referred to the hull design, which consists of a flat bottom (made from one plank) joined to two sides (the other two planks). The design closely resembles Western hard chine boats like the scow or punt. However, Pierre-Yves Manguin pointed out possible Austronesian origin of the word, attested in a Malay inscription from 684 CE. Sampans may be propelled by poles, oars (particularly a single, long sculling oar called a yuloh) or may be fitted with outboard motors. Sampans are still in use by rural residents of Southeast Asia, particularly in Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.
In the Malay community in Southeast Asia, they also use the term sampan for their boats. Large boats such as sampan panjang, kolek and perahu panjang are used and built by the Malays and Orang Laut living in their coastal villages. Some have sharp bows, and nearly all have large sterns, with the after portion of the gunwale and deck nearly always raised. Sampans are usually rigged for sailing, sometimes with two masts; otherwise they are rowed with large sweep-type oars. They are usually open or partly decked, with a shelter or cabin aft. In Japan, Hawaii, and Taiwan, a powered boat has been developed out of the traditional Japanese sampan, with a flat-bottomed midsection.
Hundreds of boatmen of Sampan, in Chittagong observed a day-long hunger strike in Karnaphuli area protesting against the city corporation’s decision to not to provide lease to professional Sampan boatmen last year.
Around 300 boatmen from eight organisations gathered at the Sadarghat point in Karnaphuli area around 6 am to 6 pm as part of their scheduled programme after suspending Sampan service, said SM Peyar Ali, president of Karnaphuli River Sampan Boatmen Welfares Association.
According to the boatmen, Chittagong City Corporation, gave the Sampan ghat on lease to different organisations instead of professional Sampan boatmen in 2003, said Peyar Ali.
The affected boatmen submitted written statement to the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Co-operatives.
The Ministry asked to take legal steps.
No initiative has been taken yet regarding the directives, causing immense suffering to the boatmen. And the professional Sampan boatmen have lifted their profession.