Tripura keen to operationalise BD-India waterway

Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb is keen to operationalize a waterway project that will connect the Gomati river in the state with the Meghna in Bangladesh and has the potential to change the state’s transport system, a senior Tripura official said on Wednesday. The proposed 15-km waterway project will give access to Ashuganj port in Bangladesh. The port was used by India to transport equipment for a power plant in Tripura from where a part of the electricity generated goes to Bangladesh.

Ashuganj port was also used by India to ferry supply of essentials from mainland India to Tripura a few years ago when the internal route in India was blocked due to landslides and damage by rains. At present, ships and steamers ply from Haldia port in West Bengal to Daudkandi in Bangladesh, which is only 80 kms from Tripura's Sonamura sub-division in Sepahijala district.

A technical committee of the Indian Ministry of Shipping had visited Srimantapur area of Sepahijala district just before the Lok Sabha elections, to see the ground reality. The Tripura government wants construction of a jetty at Srimantapur Land Customs Station (LCS) to handle business through the proposed waterway project.

At a meeting with the planning department on Tuesday, Deb was briefed about the report of the Joint Technical Committee on the waterway project, Tripura Transport Secretary L Darlong told the media in Agartala. The report suggested dredging work on a 13-km stretch to operationalize the proposed waterway.

"Of the 15 kilometres, around 13 kilometres need to be dredged on Bangladesh side and the rest on the Indian part to facilitate movement of small-medium sized vessels," the official said. The report of the Joint Technical Committee was based on the hydrographic study carried out on March 12 and 13, Darlong said.

The chief minister has asked the state transport department to hold a meeting with the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) to take forward the ambitious waterway project, he said. The Transport Secretary said he will take up the issue with the IWAI to get the project done "as early as possible". "Since Tripura has limited financial resources, we are of the opinion that the Centre must come forward to incur the expenditure to undertake the dredging," he said.