Bhutan has proposed two water routes for transporting transit cargoes and bilateral trade, officials said Monday.
Of the two routes, one is Chittagong-Chandpur-Mawa-Aricha-Sirajgonj-Chilmari-Doikhagua, and another is Mongla-Kawkhali-Barisal-Chandpur-Mawa-Aricha-Sirajgonj-Chilmari-Doikhagua.
Indian Dhubri port is located opposite to Doikhagua through which Bhutan will receive the transit cargo.
Officials said the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) is in favour of allowing Bhutan to use the two waterways for carrying its transit cargoes.
According to his letter, the first route except Chittagong-Chandpur part and the entire second route are already included in the Bangladesh-India Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT).
He also wrote that the proposed river routes, Chittagong-Chandpur and Mongla-Chandpur parts, are the best waterways where navigability of 14 feet draft is available throughout the year.
On the other hand, during the dry season the Chandpur- Doikhagua part of the two routes have navigability of at least 6 feet draft. Ships not over 200 feet long can ply through the Sirajgonj- Doikhagua route.
Sources said the commerce ministers of Bangladesh and Bhutan will sit together in Thimphu on 14-15 June to discuss bilateral trade issues where providing transit to the Himalayan Kingdom will get priority.
A commerce ministry official told the FE Tuesday that Bangladesh and Bhutan signed a transit agreement in 1980, but it did not come into effect fully due to India’s failure to reach an agreement on giving Bhutan a corridor and to allow it to use a strip of the Indian territory.
He said: “We are positively considering letting Bhutan use Bangladesh’s territory for carrying its goods.”
“We are preparing draft of an agreement for the proposed transit. We are also examining a draft of a protocol sent by Bhutan,” he said preferring not to be named.
Currently, export and import between Bangladesh and Bhutan takes place through two LC stations — Burimari and Tamabil. Bhutan in the draft protocol has proposed allowing it to use five more LC stations- Moghalhat, Noonkhawa, Nakugaon, Haluaghat and Banglabandha.
On the other hand, Bangladesh may get transit facility through five points in Bhutan.
Bangladesh and Bhutan have nearly US$22 million annual bilateral trade. In fiscal year 2010-2011, Bangladesh exported goods worth $3.12 million while it imported goods worth $19 million from Bhutan.
Bangladesh exports readymade garments, pharmaceuticals, melamine, toilet soap, dry food, fruit juice and mineral water to Bhutan while it imports fresh fruits, paper and paper boards, crushed stones, coffee and spices.