The inland waterways protocol route between Tripura and Bangladesh was made operational on Saturday when Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb received a barge with a consignment of cement from Munshiganj in the neighbouring country.
The 90 km long Sonamura-Daudkandi route, included in the list of Indo-Bangla protocol (IBP) routes in May, connects Tripura with the National Waterways of India through Bangladesh and is expected to boost trade.
“A new horizon opened for us. Today is a historic day for Tripura because the state, for the first time, has been connected to Bangladesh by a waterway. This route will later be extended till Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh,” Deb said after receiving the barge at Sonamura in Sepahijala district via the Gomati river.
Deb thanked Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi and his counterpart in Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, “for making our dream come true“.
In the trial run, the barge started from Munshiganj on Thursday and cruised along the Shitalakshya river in Bangladesh to reach Daudkandi and from there it took the IBP route, an official said.
Presently ships and steamers ply from Haldia in West Bengal to Daudkandi.
“Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh, Riva Ganguli Das, informed me that the height of eight bridges on the route needs to be increased for smooth movement of the vessels carrying goods from both the countries,” the chief minister said.
Work has already started in that direction, he said adding that a bridge over the Feni river at Sabroom in South Tripura district will be completed within December.
An integrated check post, a logistics hub and other infrastructure to facilitate import and export of various goods are being developed in Sabroom which is only 70 km from Chittagong port in Bangladesh, Deb said.
“Sabroom will be the commercial capital of the state,” the chief minister said.
Around 25-30 per cent of transportation cost would be saved if goods are transported via waterways, Deb said.
Traders of India and Bangladesh had demanded a trial run of vessels on the Gomati river to operationalise the Indo-Bangla protocol route between Sonamura and Daukandi, officials said.
A high-level team of officials of the Bangladesh Shipping Ministry had surveyed the riverine protocol route on August 12.