The first consignment of goods from Bangladesh arrived in Tripura by waterway on Saturday as part of a trial run for shipping of goods from other parts of India to the northeast region via Bangladesh formally making operational of new waterways between the two neighbours.
A Bangladeshi vessel tracking 93 km waterways carrying 10 tonnes of cement from Daukandi in the neighbouring country arrived western Tripura’s Sonamura, where Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb accompanied by others received the vessel. With the arrival of the vessel, the Sonamura-Daukandi 93-km-long new inland waterways protocol route between northeast India’s Tripura state and Bangladesh was formally made operational on Saturday.
A temporary floating jetty was built at Sonamura (55 kms west of Tripura capital Agartala) in western Tripura to start the new waterway through the Gomati river between Tripura and Bangladesh. Agartala via Guwahati is 1,650 km from Kolkata by road, and 2,637 km from New Delhi while the distance between Agartala and Kolkata via Bangladesh is just 620 km.
Deb, who also holds the Industries and Commerce Department, said that if the northeastern states carry goods from other parts of India and abroad through waterways via Bangladesh, 25 to 30 per cent expenditure would be saved.”Tripura alone imported various commodities worth of Rs 20,000 crore per annum including Rs 630 crore from Bangladesh by road or by train. Tripura exported bamboo, rubber, tea, pineapple and other goods valued at Rs 2, 000 crore per year by road or by train. From now onwards all the export and import would be done by waterways saving 25 to 30 per cent expenditure on transportation,” the Chief Minister said.
Deb, accompanied by Indian High Commissioner in Bangladesh Riva Ganguly Das, Transport Minister Pranajit Singha Roy and Lok Sabha member Pratima Bhowmik, said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina have paid special personal attention for the economic growth of Tripura and other northeastern states.
India and Bangladesh had earlier signed a MoU to ferry various goods including foodgrains from different parts of India to the mountainous northeastern states using Bangladeshi ports and surface roads to save time and transportation costs. The eight northeastern states are connected with the other parts of the country by road via narrow land corridors through Assam and West Bengal, but this route passes through mountainous terrain with steep gradients and multiple hairpin bends, making plying of vehicles, especially loaded trucks, very difficult, risky and time consuming.
According to Tripura Chief Minister the waterway distance from (Kolkata’s) Haldia port to Chattogram international port is 400 kms and from Chattogram seaport (in southeast Bangladesh) to Akhaura ICP (along Agartala) is 200 km,” he said.
Increasing the number of new waterways, the “Second Addendum to the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade” was signed in Dhaka on May 20 by Indian High Commissioner in Bangladesh Riva Ganguly Das and Bangladesh Shipping Ministry Secretary Mohammed Mezbah Uddin Chowdhury. To boost trade, economic activity and connectivity, India and Bangladesh under the May 20 deal, have added five more “ports of call” on either side and increased the protocol (water) routes from 8 to 10.
There are six “ports of call” each in India and Bangladesh.The five new “ports of call” on the Indian side are Dhulian, Maia, Kolaghat, Sonamura and Jogigopha and on the Bangladesh side Rajshahi, Sultanganj, Chilmari, Daudkandi and Bahadurabad.
Two more extended “ports of call” — Tribeli (Bandel) and Badarpur in India and Ghorasal and Muktarpur in Bangladesh — have been added.