Bangladesh Pitches For Assam Waterway Use

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LOOKEAST REPORT |

‘Allowing movement of cargo through small mechanised boats along India–Bangladesh protocol route will benefit local economy and create livelihoods’, said Mohammad Abu Jafor Howlader, Director, Marine Safety Traffic Management Department, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), Government of Bangladesh. He was delivering the keynote address at the India–Bangladesh Dialogue on ‘Prospects of cross–border trade via small mechanised boats between Dhubri (India) and Chilmari (Bangladesh)’ at Guwahati.

The dialogue was organised by CUTS International — an international trade think tank with head office based in Jaipur, India. The dialogue was well–attended by government officials, civil society representatives, boat operators, exporters and traders from Dhubri, Guwahati, Chilmari, Dhaka and Kathmandu.

 

Stone chips, boulders, coal, ginger and betel nut as the commodities that could be exported from Dhubri to Chilmari and commodities such as bricks, jute, potato, waste cotton which can be exported from Chilmari to Dhubri

 

At the dialogue, CUTS shared its research findings which has identified stone chips, boulders, coal, ginger and betel nut as the commodities that could be exported from Dhubri to Chilmari and commodities such as bricks, jute, potato, waste cotton which can be exported from Chilmari to Dhubri.

Saiful Islam, Joint Director, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), Government of Bangladesh shared at the dialogue that permitting small mechanised boats to move between Dhubri and Chilmari can be well accommodated in the India–Bangladesh protocol, if the boats are duly surveyed and registered.

‘This kind of arrangement will immensely benefit the traders since inland waterway transport is cheaper than roadway transport. It would also save costs in terms of fuel, loading charges and the detention time at land custom stations’ said Atowar Rahman, President, Sonarhat Traders Association. There was also a consensus among various traders at the dialogue that Inland Waterways Authority of India should organise a capacity development and knowledge dissemination workshop at Dhubri for exporters of various commodities.

The government of Bangladesh has proposed plans to develop the Chilmari port with warehousing and custom facilities and hence trade between Dhubri and Chilmari will benefit adjoining upazilas of Chilmari also, said Abraham Lincoln, civil society member and a lawyer with the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. The impact of local trade on the economy of relatively poor areas of Dhubri and Chilmari will be remarkable as it will provide livelihood opportunities for river training work, freight handling, boat building and other small industries.

The event concluded with remarks by Madhav Belbase, Joint Director, Water and Energy Commission Secretariat, Government of Nepal. He highlighted the importance of trade and inland navigation for land–locked countries like Nepal which would also create as new avenues for friendship and trans-boundary cooperation as well as development of the local community.

CUTS International intends to follow up with close collaboration among parallel ministries of India and Bangladesh in Dhaka next week on creating a consensus on the prospects of Dhubri–Chilmari cross–border trade through waterways. ■

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