The Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) has recommended the government to propose Indian authorities for increasing the annual maintenance cost of waterways of Bangladesh under the Indo-Bangla water protocol.
It suggested that the amount should be raised to Tk 300 million from existing Tk 100 million, which is considered too meagre to maintain the navigability as specified by the protocol, according to a recent BIWTA letter to the Ministry of Shipping (MoS).
The BIWTA, the focal point of the Indo-Bangla Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT), is responsible for maintaining a navigability of at least 2.5-metre round the year to facilitate smooth movement of vessels mainly being used for carrying Indian cargoes.
Earlier in a letter to the MoS in September, the Indian High Commission in Dhaka requested ensuring the least available depth (LAD) through the route -- 285 kilometres under route number 1/2 and 305-km under route number 3/4.
It also referred to the joint declaration by the prime ministers of Bangladesh and India in June last year and a decision taken in the Indo-Bangla shipping secretary level meeting for maintain the minimum depth of water.
However, the depth of water ranges between 1.83 metres and 3.96 metres out of the eight routes under PIWTT while the vessels of 6 to 12 feet draft were operating throughout the year, according to the BIWTA letter.
The required depth of water could not be maintained throughout the year due to lack of adequate allocation of fund and necessary dredging, it said.
Earlier in last year, a high-level meeting at the MoS in presence of Prime Minister's economic adviser Dr Mashiur Rahman had decided to request India to double the maintenance cost as a support for ensuring adequate navigability.
"The cost has already increased as the prices of maintenance materials have gone up substantially. The amount India pays in this regard is inadequate," BIWTA director (traffic) Shafiqul Haque told the FE.
He said the river channels change courses very frequently nowadays thus many instruments, especially the route marking equipments, are being washed away.
India has been paying a maintenance cost of Tk 100 million since 2013, before then it was Tk 55 million.
Mr Haque said India pays the cost for maintenance of two portions of the protocol route-Doikhawa-Sirajganj and Karimganj-Sherpur-through which only the Indian cargo vessels operate.
Official statistics showed nearly 10 million tonnes of cargoes were transported through the river routes during the last eight years. The traffic is mostly one-way from India to Bangladesh with mostly one commodity of fly ash-the single-largest import.