Private sector investment in developing land ports infrastructures could ease exchange of goods between neighbouring countries, opined speakers at a seminar held in Dhaka on Saturday.
Land ports of Benapole, Burimari, Akhaura, Bhomra, Nakugaon, Sonamasjid, Hili, Banglabandha, Teknaf, Bibirbazar and Tamabil land-ports are now operational.
Development works of Biral, Dharshana, Bilonia, Gobarkura- Koroitala, Ramgarh, Sonahat, Tegamokh, Chilahati, Doulatganj, Danuakamalpur, Sheola and Balla are now underway.
Business personnel, researchers and government officials attended the seminar, titled Addressing land port issues for better Indo-Bangla trade, to discuss bilateral trade issues and devise ways to remove barriers in order to boost trade between Bangladesh and India.
India-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IBCCI) organized the seminar at a hotel in Dhaka.
"Private and public partnership is very important to improve land port infrastructures on both sides of the borders," said Ambassador Tariq Karim, also former Bangladesh high commissioner to India, at the conference.
"If private sector investment is made to develop port infrastructure, it will ultimately boost trade and commerce between the two friendly countries."
Tariq also said currently, the business community in Bangladesh is not taking advantages of the Indian market, and focusing on the western market instead.
"If we can use land ports effectively, it will benefit both Bangladesh and India," said Abdul Matlab Ahmad, president of IBCCI. "Our exports will increase as well.
"Bangladesh annually imports goods amounting to more than $6.5 billion from India through Petrapole and Benapole land ports in India and Bangladesh, respectively," he added. "But Bangladesh exports goods worth $700 million only."
On the other hand, Harsh Vardhan Shringla, incumbent high commissioner of India, said that India has plans to develop seven land ports inside Bangladesh in the coming days.
"If both of the countries coordinate, it will improve the condition of land ports," said Shringla. "Development of common multimodal infrastructure on both sides of the border can create positive impacts on land ports."
Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan said that there are plans to activate more than one land port in the upcoming year, and internal production should be increased to augment exports to India.
"We will build a developed Bangladesh by 2041 by developing our land ports," said the minister.
Bipul Chatterjee, executive director of CUTS International in Jaipur, India, said: "We need to focus on border areas. Border infrastructure is very important for land ports, and so multimodal connectivity has to be increased.
"In that case, active participation of foreign agencies and coordinating agencies is very essential," he added.
Chairman of Bangladesh Land Port Authority Tapan Kumar Chakravorty urged all stakeholders to come forward for the overall development of land ports at the conference.
"Trained manpower for capacity building is also required," he said.
Avia Nahreen, senior research associate of the Institute for Policy, Advocacy and Governance (IPAG) said: "Lack of quality infrastructure is a major problem in land ports. Special attention needs to be paid to infrastructural development."
Meanwhile, Chairman of Sub-Committee on Imports-Exports, IBCCI Motiar Rahman talked about the current problems plaguing the land ports on the Bangladesh side.
"There is a lack of adequate security and surveillance system in the Benapole land port," said Motiar. "There are no CCTV cameras installed within a two-km radius of Benapole port, including the two entry points for importing goods. Besides, roads inside the port are in bad shape as well."
He emphasized on government attention toward the improvement of the security system in the Benapole land port to boost a two-way trade.