India keen to have new waterways with Bangladesh

Agartala, Feb 11: India will soon ask Bangladesh for new waterways, a move that would facilitate the movement of goods and machinery between the two countries, officials said.

“The proposed waterways between the northeastern states of India and Bangladesh would boost the trade and economy between the two countries,” a top central government official told IANS, not wishing to be identified.

The waterways would be rivers with developed navigation facilities for smooth movement of vessels.

India and Bangladesh share 2,979 km of land border and 1,116 km of riverine boundary. The two neighbours share 54 rivers, including eight rivers flowing from Tripura.

The official said: “India had earlier informally proposed to Bangladesh about the new waterways. The formal proposal would be officially submitted before the Bangladesh government soon.”

Tripura Transport Department Secretary Kishore Ambuly said that the state-owned Rail India Technical and Economic Services (RITES) recently conducted a survey for the new waterways between India’s Tripura state and Bangladesh.

“RITES has conducted the feasibility study to make new waterways between Tripura’s Gomti and Howrah rivers and Bangladesh’s Meghna and Titas rivers,” Ambuly told IANS.

He said: “RITES after an in-depth study for the proposed waterways has prepared a detailed project report and it was submitted before the union ministry of shipping through the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI).”

RITES, a mini-Ratna company under the railway ministry, has suggested a fund of Rs.47 crore for developing three waterways including navigation on the Gomti and Howrah rivers.

The IWAI has a central sector scheme for development of waterways in northeastern India.

The official added that the North Eastern Council, a regional planning body, may provide funds under the centrally sponsored scheme for the development of waterways in northeastern India.

Currently, Indian and Bangladeshi waterways connect West Bengal and Assam states and the IWAI and Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) are operating vessels on these routes.

The Tripura government had submitted a proposal to the central government for declaring the Gomti as a national waterway keeping in view the potential of linkage with the inland waterways of Bangladesh.

“As advised by the union ministry of shipping and transport, an inland waterways transport wing has been set up in the transport department of the Tripura government,” said Ambuly.

Tripura and other northeastern states are surrounded by Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan and China on three sides and the only land route access to these states from within India is through Assam and West Bengal. The lengthy route through Assam passes through hilly terrain with steep roads and multiple hairpin bends.

India has for long pressed for using Bangladeshi waterways and ports, especially for easy transport of Indian goods from Kolkata and other mainland cities to northeastern states through that country.

Oversized heavy turbines and other heavy machines for the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation’s 726 MW capacity Palatana power project in southern Tripura, carried on massive 132-wheeled trucks, had reached the site from Haldia port in West Bengal after being trans-shipped through Bangladesh waterways, using Ashuganj river port.

(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at sujit.c@ians.in)

IANS