As Tripura opens its first waterway with Bangladesh from Sonamura in Sepahijala district, as well as expectations and hopes, questions also arise about the ambitious project and its commercial potential.
- The road connecting Sonamura, about 60 km from Agartala on the Indian side, and Daudkandi from Chittagong in Bangladesh was included in the list of Indo-Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) roads agreed on May 20 of this year.
- The ambitious project has already been projected by the current BJP-IPFT government of Tripura as an important catalyst to catapult Tripura to a gate to the northeast.
- A large ship carrying 50 tons of cement from the port of Munshiganj in Bangladesh is expected to arrive as part of the test on Saturday.
Tripura Foreign Trade
- Tripura’s cross-border trade started in 1995. Currently, the state exports a handful of goods and materials worth Rs 30 million to Bangladesh annually, but imports Rs 645 million worth of rupees.
- This huge trade deficit is due to the abnormally high import tariff apparatus in Bangladesh and the absence of many abundant products in the state on the list of products allowed for export, as well as port restrictions. Successive state governments have pushed Dhaka to make the flow of goods more fluid.
- Earlier this year, CM Biplab Kumar Deb predicted significant growth in bilateral trade, increasing the volume of exports from Rs 30 crore to Rs 400 crore, while saying that goods worth Rs 2000 crore would be imported compared at current volume of Rs 645 crore in one year.
- He predicted that imports would increase to Rs. 4.2 billion rupees in five years with exports reaching 1.2 billion rupees.
- Now the next Agartala-Akhaura rail project, the Indo-Bangla Bridge over the Feni River and a second Integrated Control Point (ICP) in Sabroom are also aimed at resuming trade volume between the two sides.
- Not everyone is optimistic about the prospects for the project. “Akhaura Integrated Checkpoint only imports 150 times the Sonamura Pier trade volume; the state has six other land crossing points.
- Since the volume of trade in the waterway project would be low, there are no massive local jobs either.
- The most important thing is that the river route would not be operational throughout the year ”, said Dr Selim Shah, economist and assistant professor at the University of Tripura. However, he said, the low level of transportation can create new opportunities.
Tripura’s first inland waterway
Shortly after Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb took office in March 2018, expert teams from the International Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), the Land Port Authority of India (LPAI) ) and local authorities carried out a series of visits and studied the feasibility of launching inland waterways. connectivity on the Gomati river. The river connects to Meghna in Bangladesh through a 90 km body of water from Sonamura to Daudkandi.
- The plan was to dredge the riverbed to make way for small boats and boats from Sonamura to the Ashuganj river port in Bangladesh, 60 km away.
- Dredging was deemed necessary given the shallow depth of the river bed and the constant sedimentation in areas where the river winds under the hills.
- The construction of a terminal for customs control of imported goods was also planned. As the permanent jetty for loading and unloading goods takes too long, Tripura built a temporary floating jetty in July 2004. Most of the other infrastructure has yet to be built.
Make Gomati Navigable
- The Gomati River is the largest and longest river in Tripura with a cumulative length of 180 km. It is also considered a sacred river and devotees converge along its banks at Tirthmukh each Makar Sankranti.
- Gomati is also a regulated river. Due to the high altitude of its upper basin and the Dumbur Dam built in 1974 as part of the Gomti Hydroelectric Project, the river erodes a large amount of sand and rock particles in its upper segment.
- The flow slows down long after reaching the plains and at the Maharani Dam in Gomati District, a large volume of water is withdrawn for irrigation and retained to beautify the Dumbur Dam as a tourist site.
- A river needs at least 4 to 5 feet deep for freight carriers to navigate it regularly. this also only during monsoon days. During the rest of the year, low rainfall in the hills results in low volume, while the accumulation of sediment raises the middle riverbed, making Gomati even shallower. By comparison, the river route from Bangladesh to Karimganj in Assam operates from small boats to large boats for almost six months out of the year.
- The plan was to dredge the riverbed to make way for small boats and boats from Sonamura to the Ashuganj river port in Bangladesh, 60 km away. Dredging was deemed necessary given the shallow depth of the river bed and the constant sedimentation in the areas where the river meanders under the hills.
- A terminal will also be built for customs control of imported goods. As the permanent jetty for loading and unloading of goods was taking too long, Tripura built a temporary floating jetty in July 2004. Much of the other infrastructure still needs to be built.
- As an alternative and long-term solution, she suggested planting water-resistant bamboo and vetiver along its banks to prevent erosion, as well as small control dams and regulated dredging.