Dhaka: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina underscored the need for proper utilization of the maritime sector for massive socioeconomic development of the people of this region.
“There is a huge potential of maritime sector in South Asia and utilizing the sector, it’s possible to make a big lead into the socioeconomic development of the people of this region,” she told the inaugural function of the Second South Asia Maritime and Logistic Forum 2018 at Hotel Le Meridian in the capital this afternoon.
“We don’t think only about our own country, we also give importance to the socioeconomic development of all people of this region through regional cooperation and maintaining contact,” added the premier.
Sheikh Hasina said her government is committed to improving navigability of the rivers and ensuring safe and secure river routes for transportation of people and goods.
“Initiatives have been undertaken to dredge the rivers for maintaining navigability,” she said.
The prime minister expressed her optimism that her government will be able to adopt a time-befitting work plan in the maritime sector to ensure a modern, efficient and green transport system for Bangladesh.
“I hope that we will be able to adopt a time-befitting work plan in the maritime sector to ensure a modern, efficient and green transport system for Bangladesh and low carbon strategy will be our prime concern so that climate change cannot harm the country,” she said.
The Ministry of Shipping in cooperation with the Colombo International Maritime Conference Events and India’s Gateway Media Pvt Ltd has jointly organized the two-day event to attract investment in infrastructure and innovation of new technology in the shipping sector.
Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan, Indian Union Minister for Shipping and Road Transport Mansukh Mandaviya, Sri Lankan State Minister for National Policy and Economic Affairs Dr Harsha De Silva, Editor-in-Chief of India’s Gateway Media Pvt Ltd Ram Prasad Ravi and Bangladesh’s Shipping Secretary Md Abdus Samad also spoke at the function.
A short audio-video presentation on Bangladesh’s maritime sector was screened at the function.
Pointing out that water transport is low-cost, energy-efficient and environment-friendly, the premier said restoring the primacy of inland water transport as a logical and competitive mode of transportation is one of the key priorities for the government of Bangladesh.
“We’ve taken steps to reopen the closed river routes,” she said, adding dredging is highly economically justified for Bangladesh.
The prime minister said the waterways although lost its glory to some extent, it has still been playing an important role in Bangladesh’s socioeconomic uplift.
The internal transport of humans and goods in the southern Bangladesh is mainly dependant on waterways, she said, adding livelihood of a huge number of people is associated with this sector.
According to experts, she said, savings of transportation costs of cargo resulting from the use of water transport rather than road are estimated at Taka 7.5 billion whereas the cost of dredging is estimated at Taka 0.6 billion per annum.
The prime minister said the government in its National Integrated Multimodal Transport Policy has put forward a strategy that will seek to strengthen the position of inland waterways in the transport system.
“As Bangladesh is dubbed as the country of rivers, it’s also famous for building river crafts,” she said. Sheikh Hasina said the shipbuilding industry flourished here in the ancient time and in continuation of the past, shipbuilding industry shows the path renew of the past glory. “The ships built in Bangladesh are being exported to various countries including, Denmark, Germany and Poland,” she said.
Quoting statistics, Sheikh Hasina said that the total import-export through waterways was 43.17 million metric tons in the fiscal year 2010-11 which has increased to 73.21 million metric tons in the fiscal year 2016-17.
“With the support of multilateral and bilateral development partners, we will scale up our investments to provide sustained navigability of our waterways, modernize existing river ports, build new ports and inland container depots to improve cargo and passenger handling, and ensure efficiency and safety of all vessels plying our waters,” she said.
Noting that Bangladesh is the largest delta of the world, the premier said its river and floodplains, which make up 80 percent of the country, support life, livelihoods and the economy.
She said Bangladesh is developing rapidly and has already graduated to a developing country from a least developed one.
“We will have to keep up this achievement,” she said.
“We want to celebrate the golden jubilee of our independence in 2021 by turning Bangladesh into a middle income country … We are undertaking all plans to achieve this goal,” she added.
The prime minister said the country faces major inter-related delta challenges in water safety, food security and socio-economic development and is prone to natural calamities such as floods, cyclones, and droughts.
Sheikh Hasina said there is already high pressure on the available land and water resources in the delta.
She said the government of Bangladesh, in cooperation with the government of the Netherlands, has prepared and endorsed the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100. “One of the main components of Delta Plan is to accelerate the GDP growth through proper utilization of water resources,” she said.
The prime minister said Bangladesh is a country of boundless potentials. “In the water transport sector, new business opportunities exist such as the development of container transport at home and abroad, as well as the further expansion of dredging programs, ferry services, port management and operations by the private sector,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh has already settled the maritime boundary disputes with Myanmar in 2012 and with India in 2014.
“It is estimated that Bangladesh has acquired 118,813 square kilometers of the Bay of Bengal. The areas of resources include 200 nautical miles of exclusive economic zone and over 354 nautical miles of resources on seabed,” she said.
Wishing the success of the Second South Asia Maritime & Forum 2018, the prime minister said she believes that the recommendations of the conference will help realize the desired goals.
“I hope that the Forum will play an important role in socioeconomic development of the people through augmenting the region’s trade and commerce,” she said.