DHAKA, July 31, 2021 (BSS) - Experts at a webinar today identified green transportation or waterways, river training, capacity building, sustainable dredging in terms of social, economic and environmental perspective as some of the key issues towards sustainable waterways management and thus ensuring economic advancement in the country.
They also highlighted lack of master plan, reduction of tax and VAT, adequate budget for river management, and having proper river training institute for materializing the vision of sustainable waterways.
The speakers discussed these at a Webinar on "Sustainable River Dredging: Challenges and Way forward" organized by Dhaka Chamber of Commerce & Industry (DCCI) today.
Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury, MP, State Minister for Shipping joined the webinar as the chief guest while Md. Shafiul Islam (Mohiuddin), MP, Former President, FBCCI and Kabir Bin Anwar, Senior Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources joined it as special guests. DCCI President Rizwan Rahman chaired and moderated the webinar, said a DCCI press release.
Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury said the government has been putting due emphasis on river management according to the delta plan.
"We have been successful to bring transparency in this sector, especially in the tendering process. We have a plan to make 10,000 km inland river ways navigable," he said.
He said the current capacity of Mongla Port has been increased manifold and it has eased the pressure on Chittagong port.
"We have limitations and challenges, but we must have to manage our rivers through efficient dredging as these are our natural assets," he said.
The State Minister said the government is relentlessly working on sustainable river dredging both in the form of capital dredging and maintenance dredging and 35 more dredgers will be procured soon.
As per the delta plan, he said the government is firmly committed to develop the riverine system in the country.
To materialize the plan, Khalid invited private sector to come forward with more investments even in the PPP format.
Md. Shafiul Islam (Mohiuddin), MP, Former President, FBCCI called for creating better coordination among the stakeholders like BIWTA, water development board, Ministry and private sector.
Noting that unplanned dredging may kill the rivers, Shafiul suggested to utilize green transportation as it is cheaper, faster and safer.
Shafiul also requested to reduce Tax and VAT on dredging machineries & equipments and urged upon to remove inconsistencies in the policy to create private sector confidence.
Considering to be in line with the delta plan, he also stressed on disciplined tendering method.
Regarding imposed Tax and VAT, he requested NBR and Ministry of Finance to reconsider reduction of VAT and tax issues in this sector.
Kabir Bin Anwar, Senior Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources said, "We need a holistic approach for a sustainable maritime system. Presently we need 500 dredgers, but we have 150-156 dredgers in hand,"
"For capacity building still we are far behind. Maintenance dredging and capital dredging are in progress, but it should be expedited in an efficient and skilled manner." He added.
Kabir said the government has taken various projects to excavate rivers, Haors, Baors and Bils in the country for better navigability while the government is planning to establish a hydrological training and research institute.
He also invited private sector to come forward for capital dredging underscoring importance on closer cooperation between BIWTA and Water Development Board.
Ainun Nishat, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, BRAC University presented the keynote paper.
He said there are two types of dredging like maintenance dredging and capital dredging and a Master Plan needs to b prepared for river and khal dredging in Bangladesh.
Nishat also said that dredging should be done in a sustainable manner so that economy can be benefited as rivers not only carry water but these also carry life.
"For an efficient river management, special emphasis must be put on maintenance dredging. Private sector can play a major role in dredging operation," he added.
He also underscored importance of investments on dredging and de-siltation works while current practice of dredging operations, both capital and maintenance, needs to be evaluated, urgently.
To create skilled manpower, Nishat urged for establishing river training institute as Private dredging operators must be trained on sustainability issues.
"PPP can be a useful model for River dredging, sand extraction, land recovery, land accretion and land reclamation. Rules and guidelines for sand dredging from river beds should be updated and followed strictly." He added.
DCCI President Rizwan Rahman in his opening remarks said Bangladesh is a riverine country and waterways play a diverse role in the economy of Bangladesh.
"It is high time to improve the waterways for the sake of both industrial and socioeconomic development of the country as Bangladesh is poised to become a developing country by 2026," he said.
Rizwan said the 24,000 km waterways come down to 6,000 km in monsoon and 3,600 km during lean period due to dynamic characteristics of the rivers and its effect falls into the economic and ecological state of the country.
The DCCI President said to ensure sustainable development of waterway, the national budget has to rationalize Import duty, Vat and AIT to reduce total tax incidence to import heavy dredging machinery and bring river dredging programme into Fast-track development projects with larger waterway infrastructure budget.
"Private and foreign investment need to be encouraged with more fiscal and policy incentives for bringing state of the art technology here." he added.
Abu Saleh Khan, Executive Director, Institute of Water Modelling (IWM), M A Jabbar, Managing Director, DBL Group, Robert Hennessy, Vice President, Goup Civil Engineering, PSA International Pte Ltd., Commodore Golam Sadeque also spoke.
DCCI Senior Vice President N K A Mobin gave the vote of thanks. DCCI Director Khairul Majid Mahmud, Managing Director of Energypac Ltd. and DCCI's Convenor Nurul Akter also spoke on the occasion.