Multi-stakeholder collaboration for more inclusive India-Bangladesh Transboundary Inland Water Policies

Boosting trade through inland waterways

A small mechanized boat carries local trade commodities in Dhubri, Assam. Photo: Sailendra Yashwant/ Oxfam India
Paper author: 
Veena Vidhyadharan, Sameer Singh
Paper publication date: 
Friday, November 13, 2020

Trade through inland waterways using small mechanised boats offers a source of livelihood for small traders and riverine communities. The current renewed focus on inland waterways in both Bangladesh and India as alternative trade routes to enhance bilateral trade presents good opportunities to improve local businesses and generate employment for local communities.

Since 2017, TROSA and CUTS International have collaborated to generate evidence to address research-policy gaps and facilitate dialogues between government representatives, mainly among the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), Customs Department of India, Border Security Forces and civil society, traders, boat operators and local communities to tackle stumbling blocks in policy revitalization efforts. Such a targeted bottom-up approach of engaging multiple stakeholders at various levels on a sustained basis has resulted in positive outcomes at the policy level.

A series of dialogues and discussions were facilitated by CUTS International under TROSA that underlined the need for inclusive spaces for trade via transboundary waterways. These efforts ultimately contributed towards generating a tripartite consensus among authorities, traders and civil society in Bhutan, Bangladesh and India to expand river trade. This has opened up valuable local trade routes for small producers and the marginalised riverine communities. It has also increased opportunities for cross-border trade of local agriproducts as well as created avenues for local women’s involvement in promoting inclusive market value chains.