India and Bangladesh on October 25, 2018, signed several milestone agreements for enhancing inland and coastal waterways connectivity for trade and cruise movements. Bangladesh agreed to open its Chattogram and Mongla ports for trade with India. The decisions were taken during the 19th Standing Committee meeting under ‘Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade’ (PIWTT) held at New Delhi.
The Indian side proposed for the extension of the protocol routes from Kolkata up to Silchar in Assam. Currently, 3.5 MMT cargo is transported on protocol routes through inland waterways which are expected to increase substantially after the declaration of additional Ports of Call and extension of protocol routes. The North Eastern states would get connected to directly to the ports of Kolkata and Haldia in India and Mongla in Bangladesh through waterways which would facilitate movement EXIM cargo and would also reduce the logistic costs.
Both the countries signed an agreement to use Chattogram and Mongla Ports in Bangladesh for movement of goods to and from India. The two sides also agreed to consider inclusion of Rupnarayan River (National Waterway-86) from Geonkhali to Kolaghat in the protocol route and to declare Kolaghatin West Bengal as new Port of Call. Chilmari was agreed to as a port of call in Bangladesh. The new arrangement will facilitate the movement of fly ash, cement, construction materials etc from India to Bangladesh through Inland Water Transport (IWT) on Rupnarayan River.