First vessel to use Indo-Bangla inland waterways route

India's militaries at the vessel on the river with flag. Tripura’s Gomati river connects with Meghna river in Bangladesh. (PTI Photo). Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

NEW DELHI, Sep 5, 2020, HT. After a long wait, Tripura is going to witness the arrival of the first vessel from neighbouring Bangladesh on Saturday, connecting the state’s Gomati river with India’s national waterways through Bangladesh’s Meghna river, Hindustan Times reported.

The trial run of the inland waterways protocol route between India and Bangladesh started on Thursday with a boat carrying 50 metric tonne of cement from Bangladesh, set to arrive later today at Sonamura in Sepahijala district, 60 kilometres from Agartala.

The Sonamura (Tripura)-Daudkandi (Bangladesh) route was included in the Indo-Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) routes signed by Indian high commissioner in Bangladesh, Riva Ganguly Das, and Bangladesh shipping secretary, Mohammad Mezbah Uddin Chowdhury, at Dhaka this May.

According to a survey conducted by the Bangladesh authorities, 89.5 kilometres out of the 90 kms of the Sonamura-Daudkandi protocol route falls in Bangladesh and the remaining 500 metres falls in India.

Earlier in July, a floating jetty on Gomati river was launched as part of the Indo-Bangla international inland waterways project.

Since 2018, a series of expert visits from the inland waterways authority of India and the land port authority of India were carried out to check the feasibility of using river Gomati, the longest river of the state, for the waterways connectivity route.

According to the plan, dredging of the Gomati riverbed would be done enabling small boats and ships’ movement from Sonamura to Bangladesh’s Ashuganj port. Construction of a terminal building was also part of the plan to check the imported goods.

Earlier in July, chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb said the project would boost Indo-Bangla bilateral trade making Tripura a key trade hub in the northeast region. He predicted that the export volume would increase from Rs 30 crores to Rs 400 crores and the state would import goods worth of Rs 2,000 crores in one year.

Currently, goods worth Rs 645 crores are imported.

Welcoming the new project, president of the Tripura chamber of commerce and industries ML Debnath said, “Unidirectional rivers like Gomati river are without tidal waves and don’t have large volume of water across the year. Except the monsoons, proper dredging may keep the route in operation for at least six months a year. As it is first of its kind, we welcome the move.”

According to an economic expert, 150 times higher volume of goods are imported through roadways via Akhaura Integrated Check Post (ICP) compared to the 50 metric tonnes of goods that could come through the project jetty. The expert also said that the potential of the project for local employment generation might not be so high.

All Tripura merchant association sees hope in the waterways project saying that imported goods from Bangladesh would be available at affordable rates.

An Agartala-based export-import trader said that Tripura would benefit from the transit charges of goods transported through Bangladesh.

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