Three high-level meetings, aimed at improving Indo-Bangla trade and connectivity across North East, were recently held between the governments of India and Bangladesh in Dhaka.

The meetings included Shipping Secretary Level Talks, a meeting of the Standing Committee under protocol on Inland Water Transit & Trade (PIWT&T) and a meeting of the Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) on the use of Chattogram and Mongla Ports for to-and-fro movement of goods. 

TK Ramachandran, Secretary, Union Ministry of Ports, Shipping & Waterways in an interview with businessline, after the conclusion of the talks, spoke about increasing the ambit of India Bangladesh protocol route, the rising trade volumes, and investment in waterways. 

Edited excerpts: 


Is India making any Bangladesh specific investments to boost trade via the waterways? 

India is collaborating with Bangladesh to develop certain segments of the IBP (India-Bangladesh Protocol) route. This includes the enhancement of navigability in critical and shallow stretches between Sirajganj and Daikhowa on protocol routes no 1 & 2 and between Ashuganj and Zakiganj on protocol routes no 3 & 4. The objective is to ensure year-round navigability with a Least Available Depth of 2.5 meters. 

Concurrently, fairway development activities are being undertaken on NW-97 in the Sunderbans (a 172 km route from Namkhana to AtharaBankiKhal in West Bengal) to facilitate seamless vessel navigation on the Indo-Bangladesh protocol route. 

Furthermore, the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWT&T) has been expanded to include seven additional Ports of Call on each side and two extra waterway routes, augmenting the existing eight. This expansion is expected to enhance the accessibility of Inland Water Transport (IWT) mode for India-Bangladesh trade, potentially leading to increased traffic on these waterways.


How much of the investment has already been made/committed in the waterways route

India has made a substantial financial commitment to developing the waterways along the Indo-Bangla protocol route. 

Investment in dredging and development of routes 1 and 2 towards Kolkata (in West Bengal) and routes 7 and 8 from Seelkani to Karimganj (in Assam) is estimated at ₹305 crore. This investment is based on an 80:20 cost-sharing arrangement, with India contributing 80 per cent (around ₹244 crore).  

Additionally, there are ongoing development proposals for routes 5 & 6 from Maia (near Farakka in India) to Archa (Bangladesh) and routes 9 & 10, including Sonamura and Dauckana (along Gumti river). 


What is the current trade volume between India and Bangladesh via waterways?

The total trade volume between India and Bangladesh via the IBP route from FY14 to FY24 (until October 2023) is approximately 35.59 million metric tons. 

The trade volume has grown significantly, starting at 1.89 million metric tons in FY14 and increasing to 5.20 million metric tons in FY23.

In the current year, up to October, the trade volume has reached 2.83 million metric tons.