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River trade route with India opens in Rajshahi today

February 12, 2024 00:00:00

RAJSHAHI, Feb 11 (BSS): The highly anticipated river trade route connecting Rajshahi and Murshidabad in India is set to open tomorrow (Monday), aiming to bolster trade and economic ties between the two countries.

The inauguration will take place at Sultanganj River Port under Godagari Upazila in the district.

Scheduled to inaugurate the river port is State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury, in the presence of Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka Pranay Verma.

Distinguished guests attending the programme include Presidium Member of Bangladesh Awami League and Rajshahi City Mayor AHM Khairuzzaman Liton, Omar Faruk Chowdhury, MP, and BIWTA Chairman Commodore Afir Ahmed Mostafa.

Muhammad Shah Alam, Sub Assistant Engineer of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), reported that the river port's initial connection will be with the Maya Port of Murshidabad via the Padma River.

This development is part of the trade agreement between Bangladesh and India under the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT), initially signed in 1972 and renewed on March 31, 2020.

Covering a distance of only 17 kilometers, the route will allow transportation of 200-300 tonnes of goods during the dry season, while monsoon conditions may pose challenges due to the strong river current. Shah Alam mentioned that a small ship carrying two tonnes of cotton will depart from Sultanpur port to Maya port on the day of the inauguration.

With a control center established and plans for direct loading and unloading of goods onto ships, the river port is expected to create job opportunities and reduce commodity prices due to lower transportation costs.

Mayor of Rajshahi City Corporation AHM Khairuzzaman Liton credited Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's efforts for making the river port a reality.

Looking ahead, there are plans to extend the river route to Mongla port and conduct joint capital dredging for the river's navigability by India and Bangladesh.

Business leaders expressed optimism about the river port, stating that it would primarily facilitate the import of stones, fly ash, coal, fruits, and spices from India, as well as the export of jute and garments from Bangladesh.

President of Exporters' and Importers' Association of Chapainawabganj, Kazi Shahabuddin, highlighted the efficiency of river transport, with a 500-tonne capacity barge being equivalent to 25 trucks on the road and using less fuel oil.

He emphasised that the river's navigability must be restored for the full benefits of the river port to be realized, suggesting extending connectivity to Rajshahi city, Pabna's Ruppur, and the Mongla Port.

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