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Facelift plan for river port

Silchar, Nov. 14: The Bangladesh government has sanctioned Taka 245 crore for modernisation of Ashuganj port, brightening prospects of river trade with India and between the Northeast and Calcutta.

The Ashuganj river port, about 45km from Agartala and 200km from Karimganj port, witnesses the highest traffic, both over land and the Meghna river to and from India.

According to a source in the Central Inland Water Transport Corporation Limited (CIWTCL) in Karimganj, the upgrade drive, funded by the recently announced $ 100crore Indian grant to Bangladesh, will include the setting up of three additional river jetties, a container yard and dredging of Meghna’s mouth to allow easier passage of cargo ships.

The source today said 26 Bangladeshi and Indian cargo ships and light barges had docked at Karimganj and Badarpur river ports till early this month, recording the highest number of ship arrivals to south Assam from both Bangladesh and Calcutta in the past decade.

The source added that the cargo vessels had brought fly ash, melamine products and hilsa fish to Karimganj district and had taken away marble tiles, coal, tea, cement and fruits. Some large Bangladeshi cargo ships had also checked into the two ports this year.

The source said the distance between Jagannath Ghat port on the Hooghly in Calcutta and Karimganj port was 1,300km, while the distance over land was 1,410km. Given the fact that river transport was far more cost-effective than over land, it was feasible to use the river route while transporting goods from the Northeast to Calcutta or vice-versa.

However, movement of ships between Calcutta and the Northeast is hindered, as Kushiara and Meghna are rather shallow rivers, compounded by the lack of dredging along these river routes.

The CIWTCL, however, has pledged to extend monetary assistance to Bangladesh to dredge rivers in that country. The corporation will do so from the Rs 92 crore it received from the Centre for improvement of the proposed 121km National Waterway 6 over the Barak between Lakhipur and Bhanga towns in Cachar and Karimganj districts respectively.