India, Bangladesh launch a new inland water route for trade

India, Bangladesh trade and connectivity received a boost on Saturday as the two neighbours launched a new inland water route amid pandemic lockdown.

Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka Riva Ganguly Das called it a “historic moment” as she joined Chief Minister of Tripura Biplab Kumar Deb to receive the first trial run vessel carrying cement from Daudkandi in Bangladesh to Sonamura port in Tripura.

The inauguration of the new riverine route followed the ‘Second Addendum on Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade’ between the countries in May this year amid Covid-19.

With that addendum, the number of Indo, Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) routes was increased to 10 from eight.

The Sonamura-Daudkandi route was expected to improve connectivity between Tripura, Bangladesh and nearby Indian states, while the Rajshahi-Dhulian route was aimed at augmenting infrastructure in Bangladesh and reducing export cost from India.

“Today is a very historic occasion,” the Indian High Commission said in a reaction after the boat-size vessel carrying cement reached the Tripura port.

“We made sure that even during the Covid we could explore all possible avenues of increasing trade. The waterway is economical and climate friendly and during the Covid period health and hygiene can be maintained much more easily. Today is truly a historical occasion,” she said, adding that this gives a “great connectivity” to Tripura.

In the 2019 fiscal, Bangladesh exported goods worth over $1.2 billion while imported items worth over $7.6 billion.

The pandemic lockdown has slowed down the trade initially. But both countries set examples by introducing new ideas to continue the businesses.

Railway was one of those means. Indian Railways handed over a total of 103 freight trains to Bangladesh carrying essential commodities such as onions, ginger, chilies, maize, turmeric, rice seed, sugar, finished products, and raw materials for industries to Bangladesh Railways in June.

Though there are regular freight train operations between both the railways, for the first time the numbers of freight trains operated by both the Railways have crossed the 100 mark.

Both the Railways had come up with solutions to transport all the essential commodities across the border when the lockdown and transport restrictions were imposed by both the countries to arrest the spread of Covid-19.

Many importers are now using the rail route for transporting their goods, though usually they are not reliant upon the rail transportation services.

Upon seeing the success of the movement of goods by rail, Bangladesh Railways has permitted the introduction of the Parcel Train Service between India and Bangladesh. The carrying capacity of the parcel train is 238 metric tons.