The 10-day shutdown has caused a steep decline in the number of boat passengers crossing the Buriganga River
With his boat moored at the Cycle Ghat in the capital's Sadarghat launch terminal area, Mohammed Babul eagerly awaited passengers for hours on Sunday.
"In general, I earn Tk700-800 by rowing this boat from morning till night. However, the shutdown has reduced my income to Tk200-300 in the last few days," said Babul, sitting on his boat.
Babul, a boatman for 12 years, is the only earning member of his five-member family. His daily rent for the boat is Tk100.
Wearing a black surgical mask, he now rows it between Telghat in Keraniganj and Cycle Ghat.
Boatmen like Babul ferry six people, per boat, across the Buriganga River. Each passenger pays Tk5 for the journey.
Usually, tens of thousands of people cross the river by boat from Sadarghat and Keraniganj every day, but the 10-day countrywide shutdown from March 26 has caused the number of passengers to decline sharply.
The livelihoods of nearly 2,000 boatmen in the Sadarghat area has been severely affected by the shutdown amid the coronavirus scare.
To feed their families, they are braving their fear of the deadly virus and working.
Mohammed Faruk, a ghat worker at Telghat, said a large number of boats are tied up at different ghats as most of the boatmen have already left for their hometowns due to the shortage of passengers.
"Look, there are around 200 boats anchored at Telghat. The boatmen have taken out only 20 boats to ferry passengers," he said.
Around 30 ghats dot the Buriganga River between Zinjira Ferry Ghat to Hasnabad Bridge Ghat.
"Some boatmen have not taken out their boats yet as the flow of passengers is very low," Faruk said.
Another boatman, Mokbul Hawlader, said he made only Tk110 from Sunday morning till noon.
"On a normal day, I usually earn around Tk400 during that period," he said.
"I do not know how I will support my family with such a small amount of money," said Mokbul.
He said he has to pay two loan installments, of Tk1,000 each, per week.
"You think we are not scared of the virus. Actually, we are…like you. It is just that we have no alternative but to row boats to feed our families," Mokbul said, removing his face mask.
Sitting on his boat at Mosque Ghat near Sadarghat, Kamal Uddin said the ghat is usually crowded on a normal day.
"However, there are no passengers now. The ghat is empty and all of Sadarghat looks the same," Kamal said, pointing at the empty pontoons.
"I do not know how many days we will have to spend like this," Kamal said, sighing.