Staff Reporter, Rajshahi ॥

The waterway trade between Rajshahi of Bangladesh and Murshidabad of India is being launched this month. Importers and exporters will be able to bring goods from Sultanganj Ghat in Godagari to Maya Naval Ghat via Padma River.

To this end, a delegation from the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) and the Ministry of Shipping visited the waterway on Monday (October 12). Later, they had a meeting with the locals.

According to the sources, the distance between Sultanganj and Maya riverport is only 20 kilometers. Until 2004, goods were brought on this route. It was closed for more than a decade due to various reasons including navigability crisis. In view of the decision taken at the Naval Secretary level meeting of both the countries on 24-25 October 2017 in New Delhi and in December 2019 in Dhaka and the meeting of the Standing Committee of PIWT, there was a need to add several new ports of call, new protocol routes. In view of this, the Rajshahi-Dhulian waterway, which is the second addition to the Bangladesh-India naval protocol, was not operational and an initiative was taken to launch this waterway.

Mohidul Islam, Joint-Secretary of the Ministry of Shipping, visited the water route. “It will be possible to bring products throughout the year. Now our plan is to extend this route to Aricha. If possible, this route will be important for both countries.” Said Mr. Mohidul.

Syed Bashir Ahmed, Managing Director, Winship Logistics Bangladesh, said the route is designed to handle small to medium ships and small vessels with a carrying capacity of 800 to 1200 metric tons in the rainy season and 500 to 350 metric tons in the winter. “If we need a little dredging, we can do it with permission”, he added.

Although the navigable route has been started, the government space or infrastructure has not yet been set up to store the goods brought from India in Sultanganj. As an alternative, the importers have leased land on the banks of the Padma. They will bring sand, stones and food items at the beginning of the route. Jute and agricultural products will be exported.

Abu Saeed, an importer from Chapainawabganj, said more Pakura stones were imported from Murshidabad. There is a lot of demand for it in Rupganj project. It costs more to get on the road. If it is possible to bring it by water, the cost will be less. And such products can be stored, especially in addition to sand, stone and fly ash infrastructure. Therefore, the land has been leased for the time being. The infrastructure will be built within the next three months.

Offices, staff, electricity, machinery, bank branches for revenue collection have not been addressed yet. However, the authorities said that steps are being taken to develop the infrastructure.

Sadhan Kumar Kundu, Joint Commissioner, Rajshahi Customs Excise and VAT Commissionerate, said, “We have sent a report to Dhaka stating the requirements.” The superiors will take action.

Meanwhile, locals are optimistic about the import and export of goods. Locals said that if the naval route is launched, it will increase trade between the two countries and strengthen the economy. At the same time, there will be new employment.

After inspecting the river, Commodore Golam Sadeq, chairman of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority, attended the meeting. He said the experimental movement on the waterway is starting this month. If it is promising, the work of bringing the product in full will start very soon.

The existing Inland Water Transit and Trade Agreement between Bangladesh and India has been renewed since its signing in 1972. When the protocol expired on March 31, 2015, the PIWT was re-signed on June 7, 2015.

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