Commerce minister Tofail Ahmed today said the government was exploring ways to develop cross-border waterways as experts and business leaders suggested that enhanced waterways connectivity the next door neighbor could boost bilateral trade and regional tourism.
"We are working on developing the waterways connectivity for easy trade," he told a seminar titled "Enhancing Indo-Bangla Waterways Connectivity" staged jointly by India-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IBCCI) and Indian High Commission.
Ahmed said both the countries so far signed several agreements; include waterway connectivity protocol and coastal shipping agreement, to strengthen India-Bangladesh waterways connectivity to enhance bilateral trade.
He also highlighted the measures taken regarding BBIN agreement for regional connectivity.
Indian High Commissioner Harsh Vardhan Shringla, former Bangladesh High Commissioner to India Tariq Ahmad Karim, North-East Council, FICCI, India Chairman Ranjit Barthakur and Bangladesh Cargo Vessel Owners' Association President Mahbub Uddin Ahmed spoke on the occasion with IBCCI President Taskeen Ahmed in the chair. Presenting an overview on Indo-Bangla waterways connectivity, IPAG Chairman Professor Syed Munir Khasru said waterways connectivity between Bangladesh and India through joint rivers is 10 times more cost-effective than roadways and five times more than that of railways for any trade.
"Now the time has come to enhance the waterway connectivity among Bangladesh and India to boost the bilateral trade," he said adding that effective steps could be taken now as the relations between the two countries was better than any time in the past.
The Indian envoy said both the countries witnessed some significant developments regarding use of waterways for trade, especially using coastal ship under the coastal shipping agreement.
"In order to strengthen the infrastructure and facilitate waterways connectivity, India in partnership with Bangladesh is investing for establishing an inland container port (ICP) at Ashuganj, and widening the existing road," he said.
He said his country was ready to work with Bangladesh for dredging any other sections of water routes necessary to facilitate smooth use of inland waterways between two countries.
In his remark, IBCCI President said connectivity in general and waterways connectivity in particular was vital for cross border trade, investment and establishment of proper supply chain in this South Asian Sub-region, especially between Bangladesh and India.
"Recent reopening of crucial 31 km long Mongla-Ghasiakhali channel on completion of required dredging for movement of bigger vessels in the route keeping waterways adjacent to the Sundarbans undisturbed has given a new dimension to Indo-Bangla waterways transportation system," added Taskeen Ahmed.
Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)