Bangladesh awards $71M river dredging contract to Chinese firm

Kamran Reza Chowdhury
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Bangladesh awards $71M river dredging contract to Chinese firm Ferries and other boats dock at the Dhaka River Port, also known as the Launch Terminal, on the banks of the Buriganga River, June 23, 2019.

The Bangladeshi government has awarded a U.S. $71 million contract to a Chinese company to dredge rivers as part of a World Bank-financed project to boost transport routes between India and its northeastern states via Bangladesh, officials said Thursday.

Finance Minister A.H.M. Mustafa Kamal and a cabinet committee on government purchases awarded the contract worth 6 billion taka to the state-run China Harbor Engineering Co. Ltd., said Md. Zillur Rahman Chowdhury, a government official.

The firm operates in more than 70 countries, and has been hired to dredge about 800 km (500 miles) of waterways that connect the cities of Dhaka, Chittagong, and Ashuganj by December 2025.

“The dredging of the routes will enhance Bangladesh’s connectivity with the seven northeastern states of India with the use of Ashuganj river port. This will enhance trade and people to people contact between Bangladesh and India,” Matiur Rahman, a member of the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority, told BenarNews.

The contract is the first awarded to a Chinese company under the Bangladesh Regional Waterway Transport Project-1. Other Chinese companies have been constructing projects in the road and rail sectors in the South Asian country.

The inland water transport authority is responsible for dredging rivers to allow navigation.

“Completion of dredging of the Dhaka-Chittagong-Ashuganj River route will allow the ships to come to Dhaka’s Pangaon Inland Container Terminal … and accelerate the pace of trade and business,” Rahman said.

Ashuganj is a Bangladeshi river town located about 50 km (31 miles) from Agartala city, in northeastern India.

Bangladesh is home to at least 405 rivers, including 54 that enter from India and three from Myanmar, according to the government-run Bangladesh Water Development Board. Bangladesh’s main rivers – the Ganges (also called Padma), Brahmaputra and Meghna – enter from India and drain into the Bay of Bengal.

Bangladesh rivers carry nearly 2 billion tons of sediment every year and deposits can make boat travel on large sections impossible, the development board said.

Bangladesh’s government, supported by the World Bank, began implementing a series of waterway projects in 2016, according to A. H. M. Forhad Uzzaman, an additional chief engineer with the inland water transport authority. The total cost is more than $390 million (33.5 billion taka).

The governments of India and Bangladesh had been negotiating a plan to dredge the river routes using funding from the World Bank, according to Commodore Syed Ariful Islam, a former director general of the Department of Shipping.

“The principal purpose of the project is to expand Bangladesh’s connectivity with the seven landlocked states in the northeastern states of India via water routes,” he told BenarNews.

“Our rivers carry huge quantities of sediment from upstream outside Bangladesh and the problem exacerbates as the flow of rivers has been coming down every year,” he said. “But the government cannot always carry out dredging on all river routes.

“Through implementing the project, Bangladesh and India can speed up the pace of trade and business. At the same time, this project would allow the landlocked northeastern states to use Chittagong port,” he said.

Mir Nasir Hossain, a former president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, thanked the government for approving the dredging project.

“Of all the means, the water route is the cheapest. The water routes can make the biggest contribution to trade, business and investment,” Hossain told BenarNews.

“If Bangladesh and India can jointly work to increase the flow of the rivers, then these would contribute to increase trade and business as well as fish resources and protect our rich biodiversity,” Hossain said.


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