India is now gearing up to explore tourism after a successful trial of cargo movement to Bangladesh via the inland waterways protocol route.
According to a senior official, a transboundary river cruise operation is expected to start in March next year from Kolkata through Sunderbans to Bangladesh and then to connect the Northeastern destinations by private operators.
SVK Reddy, Member, Inland Waterways Authority of India said, “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 Northeast.”
He also informed that night navigation facility has been installed up to the Indian border while Bangladesh is expected to do the same.
Earlier Abdus Samsah, Bangladesh Shipping Secretary, had said that private players will be allowed to operate river cruise covering about 1,539 km between the two countries.
Both sides agreed to allow private operators to run cruise to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh.
Some sources have revealed that 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 Sunderbans and other scenic areas. It will be a lifetime experience,” added Samsah.
Reddy also said, “India has agreed to fund up to 80% 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.”