Inland waterways cost-effective multi-modal initiative to connect India and Bangladesh

Inland waterways development can not only become a vital and cost-effective component of multimodal connectivity, but also a means to sustain shared riverine ecology and ensure sustainable development and livelihood generation for people in both India and Bangladesh.

Healthy waterways as part of a larger multimodal connectivity setup can be ensured with healthy practices of water resource management, which is also a prerequisite for growth of the farm sector.

This was the common theme at the inaugural webinar of ‘Asian Confluence NADI Conversations’ organized by Asian Confluence, a premier think-tank based in Shillong.

In his inaugural address, Bangladesh Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Shahriar Alam recalling his participation in the Asian Confluence NADI festivals said, “When we talk of the 54 transboundary rivers with India, we are talking of an opulent harvest of fusing culture, crafts and trade developed over generations”.

“Rivers are part of our common heritage which we must cherish for our own nourishment”.

In her keynote speech, Riva Ganguly Das, High Commissioner of India to Bangladesh said, “The Agreement on the use of Mongla and Chittagong ports and the recent second addendum in the India Bangladesh protocol route will become a great enabler for the rejuvination of livelihood and economy of the region. These mutually beneficial arrangements will further strengthen the region. These mutually beneficial arrangements will further strengthen the integration of our supply chains and logistics sectors, generate employment and will spur investments in the logistics and services sector of Bangladesh such as finance, transport and insurance. Furthermore, Bangladesh will earn revenue as the cargo transit will be through the use of Bangladeshi trucks and through administrative and port fees. She added that the full potential of the multimodal connectivity projects will be realized in Narayanganj, Sirajganj, Mongla, Chilmari and Khulna enabling them to emerge as new economic hubs in Bangladesh”.

Ram Gopal Agarwal, Distinguished fellow NITI Aayog, Abdus Sammad, Former Senior Shipping Secretary Bangladesh and Dr.Atiur Rahman, former governor of Bangladesh Bank also backed the theme that inland waterways as part of a larger multimodal connectivity scheme ensure cost effectiveness.

The northeastern states and Bangladesh can benefit immensely from this where there is immense possibility for growth in the agri- and farm sectors. The session was chaired by Deepa Gopalan Wadhwa, India India’s former envoy to Japan and Qatar.

Echoing an industry voice, Yasser Rizvi of Summit Group said that the “The new Daudkandi – Sonamura route has good potential and in order to maximize usage suitable transshipment points must be identified for handling goods to / from the smaller barges. Pangaon and SAPL Muktarpur are both suitable for this”.

The discussion had active participation from industry stakeholder and state level policy makers.