Tripura seeks approval to import fish from Bangladesh through waterways, hindrances in ambitious project far from over 
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Agartala: Tripura government has sought necessary clearances from the Central government to import fish from Bangladesh through the newly declared Indo-Bangla waterway protocol route connecting Sepahijala’s Sonamura with Bangladesh’s Daudkandi. On this 90-kilometer waterway stretch, Tripura’s Gomati meets its tributaries with Meghna in Bangladesh.

Speaking on the issue, a senior official of Tripura Transport Department said, “Initially, we are trying to make this route operational with fish imports.”

There are, however, some trade barriers to get there. First, the Tripura government needs permission from the central government and necessary clearances of customs and other agencies involved in international trade are a prerequisite to kickstart the bilateral trade.

“In May, we sent a letter to the Central government and are awaiting their response,” the official said.

However, the official explained, that only permission on paper is not enough considering the present state of affairs.

“So far, I have been informed by the implementing agencies that sedimented alluvial soil took the shape of an islet in Bibir Bazar area, a ‘no man’s land’ that falls under the territory of Bangladesh.”

The Bangladesh authorities were informed about the issue and the Indian government is eager to pay the cost of its removal. “The matter is already taken up with the Central government but as several departments are working in cooperation, some communication lapses are delaying the process,” said the official.

The ministry of shipping has been informed about the development. Apart from that, for the development of the Indian stretch that continues till Udaipur from Sonamura, Tourism and Water Resource development departments have been assigned as the implementing agency.

“Union Minister of Shipping, Ports and Waterways minister Sarbananda Sonowal during his Tripura visit in February this year sanctioned Rs 24 crore for dredging and development work of the waterway on the Indian side. Rs 2.90 crore has been released already. The funds are distributed among both the departments for their respective works.”

The water resource department got Rs 1 crore for the dredging of the river stretch that expands from Nischintapur to Udaipur. The tourism department has been given Rs 1.90 crore for constructing floating jetties. Tourism has already floated the tender for the project.

On the dredging, he said, “Water Resource department has its own dredging machine but after conducting a survey resolved to award the work to an experienced private farm.”

The problem lies with the quantity of soil the dredging work will generate. In both the sides of the river there are crop lands and no one will allow the soil to be heaped on private land. It has to be dumped somewhere in an abandoned area.

“This aspect is being taken care of by the department,” the official added.

He also admitted that even after dredging, no big ship with a high crest can travel internationally.

“Over 23 over bridges are there that are low in height from the water surface. Only barges could be allowed for export-import. However, for domestic purposes, funds have been sought for introducing boat houses in Sonamura to Udaipur stretch,” he added. 

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