Barge movement on Indo-Bangla trade route to bypass Sunderbans

| | Updated on: Aug 21, 2012
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The barges engaged in the transportation of goods by river between India and Bangladesh will from now on follow a new route over a certain stretch of the river on the Indian side of the Sunderbans.  This follows the Centre’s decision to bypass the core area of the Sunderbans. The new stretch, entailing an additional distance of 40-45 km, falls outside the core area.  

The barge movement of goods between India and Bangladesh takes place along the river route identified in the India-Bangladesh Protocol on Transit & Trade originally signed in 1972 and subsequently renewed periodically.

The Union Government’s decision to bypass the core area of the Sunderbans has been prompted by several reasons. The core area of Sunderbans, the habitat of the world famous Royal Bengal tiger and many other rare animals and birds and home to rare species of flora and fauna, is subject to various restrictions.

Construction of jetties, channel marking, night navigation and a host of other activities required for smooth barge movements are strictly prohibited in the area. Besides, fumes and sound currently generated by the diesel-powered boats traversing the area pose an ecological threat to the bio-diversity of the region. The Centre has already announced stricter environment norms for the protection of tigers across the country.

The core area is also a safe haven for smugglers and perpetrators of various other clandestine activities who would often take advantage of the relaxation extended to the Protocol route.  The Bangladesh vessel owners, who dominate the India-Bangladesh trade by river route, are, it is learnt, are not too happy with the new arrangement. But then the area being within the geographical jurisdiction of India, the Union Government decision will prevail.

Meanwhile, a new land customs station (LCS) at Hemnagar (South 24 Parganas district, West Bengal) has been opened in place of the existing one at Namkhana, also in the same district. Both the new (Hemnagar) and the old (Namkhana) LCSs are located on the Protocol route. The Hemnagar  LCS was inaugurated today (Tuesday) by Bhubinder Prasad, Chairperson, Inland Waterways Authority of India, in the presence of senior officials of the Customs, BSF, police and the State Government,  among others.

The Namkhana LCS is about 131 km from the India-Bangladesh border by the river route, whereas Hemnagar is only 15 km from the border. BSF has an outpost at Hemnagar. With the opening of the new LCS at Hemnagar, the Indian authorities feel it should be possible to ensure better monitoring and control of the movement of vessels participating in trade by the river route between the two countries. 

Published on March 12, 2018

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