Meghalaya keen to revive river routes to Bangladesh

SHILLONG: Landlocked Meghalaya is keen to revive its traditional river routes to neighbouring Bangladesh to promote trade, chief minister Mukul Sangma said on Thursday.

Answering a query raised by former CM Donkupar Roy in the assembly, Mukul added that the government was aware that the Duba Channel in Nongjri Elaka and Dear Valley in Umniuh Elaka were the "authorized trade routes" under the Bholaganj land customs station.

Informing that trade had to be discontinued through these river routes due to dwindling water level, he, however, said the channels have been inspected and the issue of their revival has been taken up with the Centre. "A token amount has been earmarked this year for raising these rivers in view of the huge agricultural and horticultural produce," he said.

The CM said the Centre, in tandem with its Bangladeshi counterpart, has been exploring the possibility of improving the river routes. Earlier, Roy pointed out the fact that trading activity through these water channels was stopped since 1971 (the year Bangladesh was formed) and that the people living along these river routes were pressing for their revival.

Experts pointed out that it's a historical fact that the outlets to the sea for the northeast were through the Chittagong Port and via rivers in Bangladesh to the Kolkata Port. However, the region was cut off from its most convenient hinterland with the Partition of India.

On the other hand, the chief minster told the house that the state would soon have a water policy, which, among other issues, would also take into account revival of river routes. He said the draft water policy of the state has been circulated to the stakeholders for consultation and their views were being collected. The CM emphasized on the "convergence of line departments" for chalking out an effective water policy.

Deputy CM Rowell Lyngdoh, responding to a question raised by opposition MLA Ardent Basaiawmoit, said an inter-departmental committee has been constituted to finalize the policy document. Basaiawmoit had expressed concern over rampant sand and stone quarrying on riversides.