Inland waterways project can benefit BBIN: Experts

- Post Report, Kathmandu
Inland waterways could spur economic development in the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) region

Oct 28, 2017-The infrastructure works being undertaken to connect inland waterways of India and Bangladesh could not only ease the transport movement between the two countries but also translate into swifter and less expensive freight movement to Nepal and Bhutan, experts said on Friday. 

In an event held in Kolkata, India, experts from four countries-Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Bhutan, said that the viability of inland waterways as an alternate mode of transport connectivity could open up new avenues of livelihood for the affected locals and trade facilitation opportunities in the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) region.

The event entitled ‘Sub-Regional Dialogue on Inland Waterways’ under its project ‘Expanding Tradable Benefits of Trans-boundary Water: Promoting Navigational Usage of Inland Waterways in Ganga and Brahmaputra Basins’ was organised by Jaipur-based civil society organisation CUTS International. It was supported by The Asia Foundation under the Civil Society Fund of South Asia Water Governance Programme of the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development.

Former commerce secretary and trade expert Purushottam Ojha pointed out the need to review the existing Nepal-India Treaty of Transit to include a provision giving Nepal right to use India’s inland waterways for ferrying the cargos coming from or bound to Nepal.

Pravir Pandey, vice chairman of Inland Water Transport Authority of India, Ministry of Shipping, pointed out that works are underway to encourage the use of multimodal transport service for a portion of cargos bound to Nepal through inland waterways up to Kalu Ghat Terminus from where freight could be transported on trucks to Nepali borders.

Bipul Chatterjee, executive director, CUTS International said that over the last few years this subject had gained better political traction in the region. Development of sustainable and economically viable inland waterways sector in this sub-region can not only contribute towards achieving sustainable development goals through poverty reduction and job creation but also have the potential to make regional cooperation process more inclusive. 

Sagar Prasai, country representative, The Asia Foundation, New Delhi told the audience that for a long time, South Asian countries have neglected possible tradable benefits of water. “In our discussions, the topic of inland waterway navigation at regional level has not come up despite having historical significance. Land-locked countries can get access to sea by using existing waterways of neighboring countries and can gain economic benefit of regional connectivity.”

Masayuki Taga, consul general, Japan Consulate, Kolkata said that since India and Japan are working closely to link India’s Act East policy with Japan’s policies to improve connectivity in the region as a whole, thus development of inland waterways sector in this region will work as a base for improving and expanding Japan’s production and supply chains in the long term. The development of this sector also requires mega investments in infrastructure and Japan can play a vital role in that regard. 

Bruce Bucknell, British Deputy High Commissioner, Kolkata, said it is necessary to move away from zero-sum game and focus more on mutual benefits from regional cooperation. “For this, cross-border barriers need to be removed, sharing of data related to rivers, sea and shores needs to be enhanced.” 

Published: 28-10-2017 08:41

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