GUWAHATI, Oct 23 - Bangladesh is likely to complete the �capital dredging� of the Brahmaputra on its part in one year�s time, after which low draft vessels from the North East will be able to ply on it.
In April 2017, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between India and Bangladesh Government to make Ashuganj-Zakiganj stretch (309 km) of River Kushiara and Sirajganj-Daikhowa stretch (146 km) of River Jamuna navigable by ensuring minimum depth of 2.5 meter by dredging. However, in that depth movement of large ships may not be possible and Bangladesh says that given the nature of the river and topography, maintaining a bigger depth won�t be possible.
�Around 50 per cent dredging of the Sirajganj-Daikhowa stretch has been completed. Once completed, we will be able to maintain a lowest water draft of 2.5 metres and 3 metres during floods. This would enable low draft vessels to ply,� Bangladesh government officials told The Assam Tribune on the sidelines of the India-Bangladesh Stakeholders� meeting here.
A seven year project has been awarded to a joint venture formed between two companies � one from India and the other from Bangladesh � for the dredging.
�Of these seven years, two years is for capital dredging and the remaining five for maintenance,� the official said.
Admitting that dredging of the Brahmaputra is an onerous task, the official cited that there are 54 common rivers between India and Bangladesh and three main rivers which flow into the neighbouring country results in 1.5 billion tonnes of silt every year.
He said the dredging is being done using the services of a consultancy firm, which is using hydrological and allied data for predicting the behaviour of the dynamic river to ensure successful dredging.
�We are having to pay a hefty fee to the consultation firm. But without proper guidance, the dredging will be not fruitful and hence, we have to spend on it,� he added.
Dredging of the Indo-Bangladesh protocol route is being done in two sectors, both funded by India on an 80:20 basis. The Zakiganj-Ashuganj sector of Kushiyara river is being dredged at a cost of Rs 95 crore, while the Sirajganj-Daikhowa sector of Jamuna (Brahmaputra) is being dredged at a cost of Rs 227 crore.
�Eight dredgers are working on these two sectors � four in each. The main dredging will be completed by next year. We are also developing the port facilities on these stretches along with,� the official said.
For barges plying to the Brahmaputra, Bangladesh is building a multi-modal hub at Chilmari which will also act as a customs station.
The official said Bangladesh is also dredging the old Brahmaputra on its part at a cost of some 2000 crore Taka.
�In fact we are dredging all navigable rivers � nearly 700 of them - and in the next years we hope to complete it,� the official said, maintaining that barges would be economically viable in the river route.
As of now around 300 ships ply between the two countries and 95 per cent of them belong to Bangladesh companies.