Indian waterways boost Bhutan-Bangladesh trade

A ship, carrying Bhutanese stone, has set sail from Assam and will travel to Bangladesh over the Brahmaputra river and through the Indo Bangladesh Protocol Route

September 27, 2019

The ship is carrying 1,000 metric tonnes of stone, a load that around 70 trucks would normally have been required

The move would be beneficial to India as well as Bhutan and Bangladesh, and boost relations with neighbouring countries

The transport of cargo through this route will cut short travel time by 8 to 10 days, and reduce cost by 30 per cent

Government of India is taking various steps to increase the use of inland and coastal waterways for cargo movement

In a first of its kind event, an Indian waterway is being used as a channel for transport of cargo between two other countries, Bangladesh and Bhutan. Shri Mansukh Mandaviya, Minister of State for Shipping, digitally flagged off a ship – MV AAI – of the Inland Waterways Authority of India. The ship, carrying Bhutanese stone, set sail from Dhubri (Assam) and will travel to Narayanganj (Bangladesh), over the Brahmaputra river and through the Indo Bangladesh Protocol Route. The ship is carrying 1,000 metric tonnes of stones, a load for which 70 trucks would normally have been required for transportation.

Speaking on this occasion, Shri Mandaviya said that the development is historic, and added that the move would be beneficial to India as well as Bhutan and Bangladesh, and strengthen relations between the neighbouring countries. The transport of cargo through this route will cut short travel time by eight to 10 days, and reduce transportation cost by 30 per cent, bringing down logistics costs. It is also more environmentally friendly. This development is likely not only to strengthen ties with our neighbouring countries, but also to open up an alternate route to the North Eastern states of India.

The Government is taking various initiatives to increase the use of inland waterways and coastal shipping for cargo movement. These include providing assured depth of water in the channels, navigation aids like GPS and River Information System, terminals at regular intervals, facilities for mechanized handling of cargo handling, among others. At least 10 such National Waterways are currently under development. Presently, 3.5 million tonnes of cargo is transported on protocol routes through inland waterways. River cruise services are also likely to commence between Kolkata – Dhaka – Guwahati – Jorhat and back.

Bilateral agreements between India and Bangladesh has facilitated easier movement of goods and passengers, aiding trade and tourism. Meanwhile, under the US$114 billion Sagarmala initiative, the Indian Government is looking to leverage India’s more than 7,500 km coastline and 14,500 km of inland navigable waterways. Waterways can potentially revolutionize Indian economy by connecting the remotest parts of the nation, while also reducing operational efficiencies.