India-Bangladesh to start river cruise likely from March next year (Representational Image)
After a successful trial of cargo movement to Bangladesh via the inland waterways protocol route to minimise the transportation cost and distance, India is now preparing to exploit the path for the purpose of tourism, an official said.
According to an official report, a river cruise which connects the two countries India and Bangladesh are likely to commence its operations in March next year, bringing the best experience of the northeastern part of the country.
“A transboundary river cruise operation is expected to commence from Kolkata in March next year through Sunderbans to Bangladesh and then to connect the northeastern destinations by private operators,” said a senior official.
“Bilateral secretary-level meetings between India and Bangladesh were held in October. It has been decided that one of the river cruise operators would be starting operations from March, 2019 from Kolkata through Sunderbans via the protocol route to Bangladesh and then to the northeast,” Member, Inland Waterways Authority of India, SVK Reddy said.
The trans-border river cruise, which will cover about 1,539 km, will cruise from Kolkata to Dhaka and Guwahati through Ganga, Padma and Brahmaputra. The route of the ship will also cross Haldia and the Sundarbans in Bengal and Dhaka in Bangladesh to reach Guwahati, the official said.
“The private players will be allowed to operate river cruise between the two countries, which will cover about 1,539 km,” said Bangladesh shipping secretary Abdus Samsah.
“Both sides also agreed to allow private operators to run cruise to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh,” Samsah said.
According to sources, Kolkata-based Heritage Cruise which operates Ganga Voyager in India has proposed to run the first vessel on the river route.
“We are hopeful of more players showing interest. The route passes through Sundarbans and other scenic areas. It will be a lifetime experience,” the shipping official said.
Samsah also said India has agreed to fund up to 80 per cent of the dredging cost in some identified stretches within Bangladesh in the Indo-Bangla protocol route to make it navigable.
Regularly, 15-20 barges carrying fly ash are now heading to Bangladesh and navigation up to the Indian border is smooth, Samsah said.
(With inputs from agencies)