Bangladesh officials on Wednesday said India should give visa on arrival to tourists in order to boost cruise tourism, including that on the mesmerising Brahmaputra.
"Many Indian tourists visited places of tourist attractions in Bangladesh in two river cruises, which were run recently on the Brahmaputra in order to explore the potential of river cruise tourism. We are also planning to send two cruises to India similarly. But many tourists are having a problem in getting the visa and so it is necessary to give them visa on arrival in India to push tourism, particularly in Assam," Abdul Samad, secretary of the ministry of shipping, Bangladesh said while chairing a technical session here on port use agreement between India and Bangladesh.
"Many countries are going for visa on arrival concept for tourists, even country like Saudi Arabia is now doing so. So it is now up to the government of India to give visa on arrival to our tourists, who are willing to visit Northeast India through river routes," Samad said.
The technical session was organised as part of India-Bangladesh stakeholders meet in Guwahati on trade and connectivity between the two countries, which focussed on Northeast India.
MV Mahabahu, a luxury river cruise with 30 tourists had sailed on the Brahmaputra from Pandu in Guwahati to Kolkata via Bangladesh in April this year. Three Unesco World Heritage Sites — Sundarbans, Mosque City of Bagerhat (Bangladesh) and Manas National Park in Assam — were among its major stopovers. Another cruise made a similar voyage.
Officials of India and Bangladesh admitted that dredging of the rivers including the Brahmaputra was a challenge to maintain safer navigation of ships and cargos on the eight new river routes in Northeast India and Bangladesh, the standard operating procedure for which were signed between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and her Bangladesh counterpart Shiekh Hasina on October 5. "The revival of the eight river routes through Bangladesh is going to be very important for connectivity in the Northeast with the rest of India as it is going to reduce the distance and cost of transportation. But dredging is one of the major challenges before us. Presently fly ash comprise the bulk transportation through the routes but since the Northeast is not an industrial zone, natural products like bamboo and stone chips can be transported through river route. There is also plan to transport foodgrains from Varanasi to Tripura via Bangladesh," Amita Prasad, chairman of Inland Waterways Authority of India said.
Manoj Kanti Baral, joint secretary in the ministry of Shipping, Bangladesh said a massive dredging work was underway in rivers in Bangladesh for better navigation. He said India was funding 80% of the cost to dredge the 296-km river route between Ashuganj and Zakiganj to maintain a navigational channel for India ships and vessels.