The Joint Technical Committee has proposed 15 km of the waterway be dredged
The decision on when to begin dredging work on the Indo-Bangla Waterway Project may be taken in late 2019, sources said.
Asking to remain anonymous, a member of the Joint Technical Committee formed by India and Bangladesh said: “The decision on when to begin the dredging work may be taken later this year. If not, the decision may be taken early next year.”
The source added that the decision will not be taken until Standing Committee and Secretary level teams from India visit Bangladesh either in late 2019 or early 2020.
The Joint Technical Committee member’s comments were made just hours after a senior Indian official revealed that Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb is keen to make the project operational, as it would be a “game changer” for the state’s communication system.
The proposed waterway project will connect Tripura’s Gomti River with the Meghna River in Bangladesh, allowing access to the Ashuganj river port in Brahmanbaria, according to a PTI report.
Currently, ships and steamers sail from Haldia in West Bengal to Daudkandi in Comilla, which is 80km from Tripura's Sonamura sub-division in Sepahijala district, says the Indian news agency.
At a meeting with the Indian planning department on Tuesday, Biplab was briefed on the Joint Technical Committee’s report on the project, which estimated 15km of dredging.
"Of the 15km, around 13km needs to be dredged on the Bangladesh side and the rest on the Indian part, for the passage of small tomedium sized vessels," said local Transport Secretary L Darlong.
He went on to say that the report was prepared based on a hydrographic study carried out on March 12 and 13.
At the meeting, Tripura’s chief minister ordered the local transport department to hold a meeting with the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) to give a “big push” to the project.
Darlong told the PTI that he would take up the issue with the IWAI to get the project done "as early as possible."
"Since the state has limited resources, we are of the opinion that the Centre must come forward to incur the expenditure to undertake the dredging," he said.
Meanwhile, the Joint Technical Committee member said Bangladeshi counterparts visited India last October to discuss the waterway project, and it is now their Indian counterparts’ turn to make a trip to Bangladesh and finalize it.
He also said the Bangladesh side of the river route from Daudkandi to the Indian border is as long as 92km.
A technical committee of India’s Shipping Ministry visited Srimantapur in Sepahijala district just before the Lok Sabha elections, to see the ground reality themselves.
The state government wants to construct a jetty at Srimantapur Land Customs Station (LCS) to handle business on the proposed waterway project.