Indo-Bangla body on trade protocol routes in limbo

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Posted February 18, 2020

The joint monitoring committee (JMC) between Bangladesh and India to supervise the dredging works of the ‘development fairway in the stretches of Ashuganj-Zakiganj and Sirajganj-Daikhawa’ Indo-Bangladesh Inland Water Transit and Trade Protocol Routes has not been reconstituted in the past two years as India is yet to submit any proposal in this respect.

It was decided that the JMC would be reconstituted at a meeting of the Standing Committee on the Protocol on Inland Water Trade and Transit (PIWTT), held on October 24, 2018, in New Delhi, said sources in the shipping ministry. The seven-member JMC was constituted on July 11, 2018, comprising Bangladesh and Indian officials.

According to the PIWTT decision, the 285-km-long Ashuganj-Zakiganj and 185-km-long Sirajganj-Daikhawa protocol routes will be dredged and India and Bangladesh will bear the dredging cost on an 80:20 basis.

Both the protocol routes are very important as goods are carried to the Indian seven sister states, including for trade, using these routes.

Against this backdrop, a five-member Indian delegation will arrive in Dhaka today (Monday) to visit several spots of the protocol

routes. The members of the Indian delegation are: Sanjay Kumar Gangwar, joint secretary of the Indian shipping ministry, Vinod Kumar Kureel, chief engineer (technical) of the Inland Waterways Authority of India, Pramyesh Basall, second secretary (commercial) of the Indian High Commission to Bangladesh, SVK Reddy, chief engineer of the Inland Waterways Authority of India, and Chandra Mani Rout, director of Central Inland Water Transport Corporation Ltd. of India. The shipping ministry’s joint secretary, Manoj Kanti Boral, along with Abdul Matin, chief engineer (dredging) of the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), will lead the Bangladesh team.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh has already started dredging works of the Ashuganj-Zakiganj and Sirajganj-Daikhawa protocol routes. Sources said the implementation period of the protocol routes has been fixed for seven years. Of the project period, two years will be spent on capital dredging and five years on maintenance dredging, the sources added.

“About 37.5 lakh cubic metres of silt will be removed from the 285-km-long Ashuganj-Zakiganj (Kushiyara-Kalni river) protocol route and about 90 lakh cubic metres of silt from the 185-km-long Sirajganj-Daikhawa (Jamuna) protocol route,” the BIWTA’s additional chief engineer Rakibul Islam Talukder told The Independent yesterday.

He said the Indian government will bear 80 per cent of the dredging cost (excluding VAT and income tax), while Bangladesh will bear 20 per cent, as per the PIWTT decision. According to Talukder, “The main objective in visiting the spots of the JMC is to find out ways on how to dredge the protocol routes with a view to keep the routes navigable round the year.”

The JMC members will visit the segment from Chilmari to Shaheber Agla under Kurigram district on Tuesday, while the team will visit the Ashuganj-Zakiganj stretch under Moulvibazar areas on Wednesday to look after the dredging activities, he said. The JMC members will hold a meeting on Thursday at the BIWTA headquarters in the city’s Motijheel area to discuss the ongoing fairway development works. The Indian team will leave Bangladesh on Friday.