Vessel from Daudkandi of Bangladesh to reach Sonamura of Tripura in trial run of new river route on Saturday
The relationship between Bangladesh and India is set to reach another milestone with the first ever export consignment from Daudkandi reaching Tripura through inland waterways on Saturday.
The Bangladeshi vessel MB Premier, carrying 50 metric tonnes of cement from Premier Cement Company, headed out on its journey on Thursday and is set to arrive at Sonamura of Tripura on Saturday, after a 93 km journey on the Gumti River.
Chief Minister of Tripura Biplab Kumar Deb and Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Riva Ganguly Das are scheduled to receive the consignment at Sonamura.
The first ever export consignment from Bangladesh to Tripura through inland waterways is being used as a trial run for the operationalization of the Daudkandi (Bangladesh)-Sonamura (Tripura) Inland Waterway Protocol route.
Bangladesh and India signed the Protocol for Inland Water Trade & Transit (PIWTT) in 1972, immediately after the independence of Bangladesh, to ensure inland waterway connectivity between the two countries and enhance bilateral trade. The protocol was last renewed in 2015 for five years, with a provision for automatic renewal for a further period of five years.
The scope of the protocol was expanded on May 20 with the signing of its second addendum. With this latest addendum, five more ports of call and two Indo Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) water routes were added.
Exploring new trade avenues
Speaking at a virtual media briefing on Thursday, Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said the Sonamura-Daudkandi route, included recently in the PIWTT, is significant as it connects Tripura to the national waterways of India through Bangladesh for the first time.
He said the trial run that commenced from Daudkandi will reach Sonamura on September 5 (Saturday).
“This initiative will greatly boost our connectivity with the north east region and also boost bilateral trade with Bangladesh. Enhanced connectivity through inland waterways, particularly in this Covid-19 scenario, is significant because it provides for economical, faster, safer, and cleaner modes of transportation for traders and business communities of both sides,” said the spokesperson.
In a twitter post, Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb said a successful trial run will open up new avenues for economic development in both the countries, with Tripura playing an important role.
Professor Mostafizur Rahman, distinguished fellow at the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), told Dhaka Tribune the operationalization of this river route has potential, as it is cost effective and will be beneficial for both sides.
“If Bangladesh can create a better competitive scenario, then Bangladeshi exporters can grab a larger portion of exports using this riverway route, but the government will have to incentivize the private sector for using and popularizing this route,” he said.
“Currently, heavy construction is ongoing in the northeast and huge investments are being made in infrastructural development, and therefore they will need construction materials in large scale. It is a great opportunity for Bangladesh to export construction materials to Tripura via this new route,” he said.
Since riverways are more cost effective than roads or railway transportation, Bangladesh can explore many avenues if it can explore the river route properly, he added.
Prof Mostafizur also pointed out the importance of keeping this route navigable for big cargo ships.
Premier Cement Managing Director Mohammed Amirul Haque said the route can open more and more opportunities for trade between both countries, as it is very cost effective for transportation of goods compared to other modes of connectivity.
Echoing Prof Mostafizur, he also said proper river dredging will be required to ensure operation of large cargo ships to transport materials.
Secretary of the Bangladesh Shipping Ministry Mezbah Uddin Chowdhury said the trial run is being conducted to identify possible obstacles or physical hindrances in the new riverine route between the two countries.
“If found operational and efficient, we will use this route on a regular basis,” he said.