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Use of Bangla port on hold

Guwahati, July 25: Bangladesh has told India the Ashuganj port cannot be used for movement of bulk cargo to the Northeast immediately, because of poor facilities and infrastructure.

This was stated by Bangladeshi officials at the recently concluded shipping secretary-level meeting on “Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade” between the two countries in Dhaka recently.

The development comes as bad news for authorities looking to send cargo to the region via Ashuganj port.

Ashuganj is close to Agartala and is navigable almost throughout the year.

In 2010, Dhaka had signed an agreement with New Delhi, allowing the latter to use the river port for transit and transhipment.

Sources said Bangladesh had allowed India to utilise the port for transportation of cargo for a power project in Tripura on a trial basis.

Official sources said Bhupinder Prasad, chairperson of Inland Waterways Authority of India, had requested Bangladesh to consider transhipment of 35,000 metric tonnes of foodgrain and fertilisers to Tripura on humanitarian grounds as a special case.

Referring to the joint statement made by the two countries on September 7 last year, she pointed out that pending development of infrastructure, the Ashuganj port could be used for movement of bulk cargo immediately.

However, Bangladeshi officials said their government had taken up some development projects to make the port operational and India has to wait till the infrastructure and facilities become available.

“Pending the same, for emergency, special measures for transhipment of food grains and fertilisers at specific request may be considered,” an official said at the meeting.

In the 14th standing committee meeting, both sides had agreed to take necessary steps for providing full-fledged facilities at Akhaura and Agartala land custom stations, including suitable road connectivity.

A project for a container terminal at Ashuganj has already been approved by Bangladesh and the same is waiting for funding.

The Indian side stated they would commission a feasibility study with grant assistance for implementation of the project, while Bangladesh reiterated the project should be implemented soon with grant assistance from their neighbour.

Prasad visited Assam today to review the progress of some projects, including the one at Pandu.

New Delhi has requested for making Dhubri as port of call but Dhaka said this would be decided on the basis of findings of the joint technical committee.

Inland vessels of one country can transit through specified routes of the other under the inland water transit and trade protocol between India and Bangladesh.

Under the protocol, equal quantities of cargo are permitted on Indian and Bangladeshi vessels both for transit and inter country trade.


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