Vol. 5 Num 49 Wed. July 14, 2004  
Front Page

Banglabandha land port still dysfunctional on lack of Indian support

The country's only export-oriented land port Banglabandha could not be made fully operational even after its formal opening in May this year, mainly due to lack of co-operation from New Delhi, sources concerned said.

According to shipping ministry sources, the inefficacy of the land port in northern Panchagarh district results from the absence of an agreement between Dhaka and New Delhi on transportation of goods to and from Nepal through a 52km Indian corridor.

New Delhi did not respond to Dhaka's proposal for reaching an understanding to facilitate Bangladesh-Nepal trade, sources alleged. Indian customs now allows only two hours a day to Nepal-bound trucks from Bangladesh for crossing the Indian territory.

"The warehouse built at the land port at a cost of over Tk two crore remained unused since its opening," said a high official in the ministry.

According to sources, all necessary infrastructures at the port were developed temporarily to boost trade with the land-locked Himalayan Kingdom Nepal. But no support came from India, which lies between the two South Asian neighbours.

The government formally opened the land port on May 22 this year with a hope that India would increase the transit time for using its corridor and improve infrastructures for transportation of goods to and from Nepal through Indian lands.

Bangladesh set up customs, immigration, banks, police camps, warehouses and all other necessary infrastructures for the land port. There is also a plan to build a full-fledged land port by a private company on build, operate and transfer (BOT) basis on 10 acres of land.

On the other hand, India has done nothing but setting up a single L/C station on their side. A 2-km frontier road in the Indian side is in a very bad shape.

Only five trucks came from Nepal since the opening of the land port and the goods were unloaded from truck to truck without using the warehouse at Banglabandha, a shipping ministry source said explaining the situation.

The government staff deployed at the port remain idle as the port is yet to start full operation. There are seven staff in customs, five in immigration, seven in administration and two in the quarantine who spend time without work.

Besides, a 12-member police team aided by seven security personnel deployed by the land port department is engaged in maintaining security at the port.

Banglabandha is the only export-oriented land port in Bangladesh while all other land ports are used mainly for importing goods from India. Nepal has always been interested in importing goods through this land port, the nearest from the Himalayan country.

Nepal imports ready made garments, ceramics, CI sheet, biscuit, battery, cosmetics and other items from Bangladesh through this border.

A border check-post was opened at Banglabandha few years back but it did not function properly due to lack of infrastructure facilities. Officials used to come from Panchagarh, some 57 km off the land port, for processing the documents.

Moreover, the movement of passengers through this check-post could not be introduced due to lack of immigration office in the Indian side.

Bangladeshi tourists could easily go to attractive places like Darjeeling, Gangtok and Bhutan through Banglabandha border if immigration facilities were developed in the Indian side, the source pointed out.

Foreign tourists who often visit Nepal or Bhutan could also come to Bangladesh crossing the same border, they added.