Kolkata: As part of the India-Bangladesh cooperation for inland water transport, India will finance 80 per cent of the estimated Rs. 220 crore required for dredging to maintain navigability in the Sirajganj-Daikhawa on the Jamuna Ashugunj-Karimgunj stretch of the Kushiyara river in Bangladesh.
The Jamuna is the local name of the Brahmaputra in Bangladesh.
According to Pravir Pandey, Vice-Chairman of Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), the tender for dredging will be floated by Bangladesh Inland Waterway Transport Authority (BIWTA) and only Indian and Bangladeshi companies can take part in the tender.
India signed an MoU for fairway development across the stretches with Bangladesh during the visit of Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in Delhi last month.
Dhaka allowed transhipment of goods through Ashugunj Port, close to Tripura border, last year.
The Hasina Government’s decision to charge Taka 192 a tonne ( Rs. 155) transit fee triggered a controversy in Bangladesh as it was deemed too low.
However, transporters found the facility unviable due to long turnaround time and rudimentary logistics facilities at Ashugunj. Dhaka is now planning to upgrade the Ashugunj Port facility using a part of the $2 billion second line of credit. (A third line of $5 billion was offered last month).
This, coupled with dredging, should improve the viability of river transport through Bangladesh.
From the Indian perspective, the Sirajganj-Daikhawa stretch is more important as it would help create a nearly 4,000-km-long fairway from Varanasi in UP to Sadiya in upper Assam (bordering Arunachal Pradesh) through Bangladesh.
India is already developing the Varanasi-Kolkata stretch, called NW (National Waterway)-1 as a fairway at an estimated Rs. 5,369 crore under World Bank assistance.
Post development vessels capable to carry 1,500 to 2,000 tonne of cargo can travel through the stretch round the year.
A similar project for developing the NW-2 from Dhubri (bordering Daikhawa) to Sadiya, with World Bank assistance, is currently under consideration. IWAI recently organised a stakeholders’ meet in Guwahati in this regard.