Banglabandha port being opened

Indra Gurung

Kathmandu, May 19:

Though the formal inauguration has been postponed, Banglabandha land port is set to commence operation from coming Saturday following a soft opening. "A soft opening will be held on May 22 in the presence of commerce secretaries and representatives of business apex bodies from Nepal, Bhutan and India," said a senior official at the Bangladeshi embassy in Kathmandu. According to him, commerce and shipping secretaries of the government of Bangladesh will jointly inaugurate the land port.

Dinesh Chandra Pyakuryal, secretary at the ministry of industry, commerce and supplies is also scheduled to take part at the soft opening ceremony along with commerce secretaries from India and Bhutan. A representative of Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry will join the official delegation. Construction work for building the necessary infrastructure has been completed at Banglabandha of Panchgarh district for smooth functioning of the land port, where Bangladesh government has also built a building at a cost of Bangladeshi currency Tk 1.40 crore. The building with 8,500 square feet space will be used for offices of customs, immigration, bank and land port authority.

A 52-km Fulbari transit road through Indian territory in West Bengal links Kakarvita border point in Jhapa district with the Banglabandha land port in Bangladesh. Though the shortest trade-transit route between the two countries was opened in 1997, trading activities have not picked up to the desired levels.

Following a request from Nepal for using the Mongla Port for exporting and importing goods from third countries, the Bangladesh government took the initiative to develop a land port at Banglabandha. To encourage Nepali businessmen use the port, the Bangladesh government has announced to give a 50 per cent concession on port charges on all Nepal-bound goods, the embassy official told The Himalayan Times.

Despite the dry port having been conceived as an ideal link to the Mongla Port, Nepali businessmen here have asked for proper infrastructure and facilities at the sea port.

They also underlined the need for modern cargo handling equipment, hassle-free goods movement along the Kakarvitta-Fulbari route and effective security measures for possible pilferage. "Once these things are in place, Mongla Port will be definitely an alternative sea port for export-import business from Nepal," says Namgyal Lama, president of Nepal Freight Forwarders Association.

"If India does not cooperate in transporting goods through its land, the land port at Banglabandha would never be vibrant," one of the businessmen said. Currently India allows only the use of the road for two hours a day for transporting goods between Bangladesh and Nepal. Following the commencement of Kakarvitta-Fulbari transit route, trading between the two countries has not picked up as expected. Till date, exports/imports worth over Rs 650 million have been done using the route. Nepal exported various goods worth Rs 13.12 million in the last fiscal year, while it imported goods valued at Rs 140.9 million through the Kakarvitta-Fulbari route.