The first Kolkata-Dhaka river cruise via the Sunderbans is set to begin operations in March next year.
“There have been secretary-level meetings between India and Bangladesh in October,” Inland Waterways Authority of India’s (IWAI) member SVK Reddy said in Kolkata on Sunday. “It has been decided that one of the river cruise operators will start operations in Kolkata from March 2019. The cruise will take the Kolkata-Sunderbans route and, via protocol route, reach Bangladesh and travel to the northeast.”
Protocol routes are defined maritime navigational routes agreed upon by two countries through bilateral treaties.
Reddy said night navigation facilities were in place up to the Indian border. Bangladesh had said they would provide the same facilities in accordance with a bilateral agreement in Delhi in October. He also said the Indian government was funding up to 80% of the dredging cost at some stretches — some even within Bangladesh borders — on the Indo-Bangladesh protocol route.
Route up to Indian border ‘navigable’
The protocol route up to the Indian border is “navigable” and 15-20 barges carrying fly ash are going to Bangladesh regularly, Reddy added.
IWAI has already entered into an agreement with city-based Heritage Cruise for the India-Bangladesh cruise. Other cruise operators are also enthused by Reddy’s announcement. City-based cruise operator Vivada — which had, in 2014, organised a cruise to Bangladesh with a one-off special permission from the India and Bangladesh governments — has informed IWAI that it was interested in the Kolkata-Dhaka route, said sources.
Vivada director R Sushila said the company plans to operate cruises to Bangladesh and the North-East through Bangladesh. She said the cruise route to Bangladesh goes through Namkhana, the Indian part of the Sunderbans, the Bangladeshi part of the Sunderbans, Barishal, Chandpur, Narayanganj and Dhaka. For the North-East, the cruise can take the Aricha route from Chandpur. “The cruises can enter the North-East from Bangladesh through Dhubri in Assam,” she added.
It generally takes six days to reach Dhaka, considering night stopovers and programmes, Sushila said. A logistics expert said a six-day cruise to Bangladesh could cost Rs 60,000 to Rs 75,000 per person, with each vessel being able to accommodate around 50 tourists.
Representatives of Heritage Cruise could not be contacted for comment.
Source: Times of India