Indo-Bangla river-borne trade to get a shot in the arm

DHAKA (The Daily Star/ANN) - According to the draft, two new river routes will be included in the current PIWT&T signed in June 2015.

The Bangladesh cabinet on Monday approved the draft of the amendment to an existing agreement between Bangladesh and India on raising the number of ports of call between the two countries with a view to deepening river-borne trade.

The approval to the draft of the second revision of the Protocol on Inland Water, Transit and Trade (PIWT&T) came at a weekly cabinet meeting at the secretariat with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.

Port of call means an intermediate stop for a ship on its scheduled journey for unloading and loading of cargo or taking on supplies or fuel.

According to the draft, two new river routes will be included in the current PIWT&T signed in June 2015. The routes will be used to trade goods. Besides, India would use the routes to move goods from its one territory to another using the territory of Bangladesh.

 "This amendment will boost bilateral trade and ease the river transport between the two countries," Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam told reporters after the meeting.
"Bangladesh would also be benefited because of the new ports of call as the carrying cost of goods will reduce significantly."

Currently, Narayanganj, Khulna, Mongla, Sirajganj, Ashuganj and Pangaon are the ports of call on the Bangladesh side and Kolkata, Haldia, Karimganj, Pandu, Silghat and Dhubri are ports of call on the Indian side.

Under the draft, Rajshahi, Sultanganj, Chilmari, Daudkandi and Bahadurabad will be declared as the new ports of call on the Bangladesh side. Besides, Ghorasal and Muktarpur will be considered as the extended ports of call.

On the Indian side, Dhulian, Maia, Kolaghat, Sonapura and Jogigopha will be declared as the new ports of call while Tribeni (Bandel) and Badarpur will be considered as the extended ports of call.

At present, there are eight river routes earmarked under the PIWT&T.

Under the revised protocol, the new routes on the Indian side will be Badarpur, Sonamura, Kolaghat, Maia and Jogigopha. Ghorasal, Daudkandi, Sultanganj, Aricha and Bahadurabad are the new river routes on the Bangladesh side.

Capital and maintenance dredging will be carried out in 470 kilometres of river routes under a joint venture. India will bear the majority of the cost.

The river routes are the 175km Sirajganj-Doikhaoa and the 275km Ashuganj-Jokiganj. India will continue the dredging for the next four years as per agreement, the cabinet secretary said.

The cabinet also gave its consent to the draft protocol to be signed for receiving assistance from Russia over the operation and maintenance of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant after constructing the country's first nuke power plant.

As per agreement, Russia will take back the nuclear waste of the power plant, the secretary said.  

There was no specific clauses in the current agreement on maintaining the plant after its construction, said Surayya Akhtar Jahan, deputy secretary of the science and technology ministry. 

Consultancy, training services, services for repairs and maintenance and supply of equipment and materials will be incorporated in the additional agreement, she said.

One of the ambitious mega projects of the government, the construction of the $12.65 billion-power plant began in November 2017.

Russia's State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom is constructing the 2,400 megawatt power plant at Rooppur in Pabna and the first two units of the plant are expected to be operational in 2023.

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