India set for transit in Bangladesh

Agartala, Jan. 11 : India is all set to secure railway, water and road transport facilities across Bangladesh, official sources here said.

The prospect of road, railway and waterways transit has generated keen interest in Tripura in the wake of the Bangladesh government’s consent to allowing transportation of heavy equipment for ONGC’s 726MW Palatana thermal power plant through Ashuganj river port on the Meghna.

Sources said following the water transit permission, the country’s leading Navratna company had also started constructing a road from Ashuganj to Sultanpur in Brahmanbaria district of Bangladesh to transport heavy turbines.

Besides, the survey to set up railway links between Agartala station and Akhaura railway junction in Bangladesh, a distance of 13km, is also nearing completion. “Once this is complete, work on laying tracks will commence and it will not take much time. Tripura will be linked by railway with the rest of India across Bangladesh,” a source said.

At an Indo-Bangladesh conclave in Dhaka on December 22, Bangladesh had decided to renew the river protocol between the two countries for five more years.

After the conclave, Bangladesh authorities had sought opinions from the ministries of home affairs and external affairs, the National Board of Revenue and the Vessel Owners Association on the proposed renewal.

Since 1972 when the river protocol had been first signed it was being renewed for two years each and this is the first time that renewal for five years was sought even though Indian delegation had sought a renewal for seven years.

Sources here said that the ministries, NBR and VOA have agreed to five year renewal have not yet taken a final decision but they are likely to communicate their consent soon though questions are being raised over revenue from river transport charge . The government of India has agreed to grant annually an amount of Rs five crore for desiltation work in rivers for continued navigability round the year .

Meanwhile, Tripura government has decided to float national tender for consultancy over reopening of old waterways connecting Tripura with the rest of India across Bangladesh. Official sources said that in the pre-independence days Tripura's two major rivers Gomati and Hawrah that fall in the Padma and Meghna rivers of Bangladesh provided water-link with rest of India through West Bengal . But partition of the country changed the river transport profile. In a meeting with minister for DONER B.K. Handique, Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar had raised the issue of reopening the water links across Bangladesh. After consultation with the ministry of shipping the DONER ministry has asked the state government to prepare a detailed project report on how best to revive the water-links . Official sources said that national tender seeking consultancy service would be floated soon. 'Actually the issue has assumed significance because of the ongoing upgrading of Ashuganj as 'Container Port' with Indian financial assistance; once it becomes operational a lot of opportunities will open up for Tripura and northeast at large' sources said.