The Gubrakura-Karaitali Land Port on India-Bangladesh border will be opened up for trade soon by this year end, as all the necessary infrastructure have been installed at the land port.
This is the first of its kind port to be located in Haluaghat upazila of Mymensingh and was inaugurated by former shipping minister Shajahan Khan in the last quarter of CY-2012. However, the land port was unable to function in full swing as certain critical infrastructure development was still pending.
The Gubrakura and Karaitali land customs stations have been mainly used to import coal and stone from India since the 1990s but they have huge potential to boost economic activities in the region, local businesspeople say.
As such, traders have long been urging for the development of modern infrastructure, including wider roads, warehouses, yards, a weighbridge and administrative buildings, to boost import-export activities.
Md Mustafizur Rohman, assistant director of the port, said they completed the infrastructure and other related development works in June this year with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina set to inaugurate the new facilities.
“Mostafa Kamal, secretary of the shipping ministry, confirmed the completion of the port’s development work a month ago,” Rahman added.
Development projects amounting to more than Tk 67 crore began in July 2018 and were scheduled to end by June 2020. However, the duration was extended until June 2022 due to the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020.
If the land port starts operating at full capacity, then the greater region will become vibrant as hundreds of workers from both inside and outside the area will be engaged with its activities.
The Gubrakura-Karaitali land port currently employs around 6,000 workers during the peak business season, said Md Suruj Miah, president of Karaitali Coal and Coke Importers Welfare Association.
Major activities at the port usually continue for about six months each year, when mainly coal is imported. However, the port is almost completely inactive during the monsoon season.
“So, operating at fully capacity would boost business round the year,” Miah.
Traders imported around 1.5 lakh tonnes of coal through Gubrakura-Karaitali land port this year, up by some 53 per cent from 70,000 tonnes in 2021.
Traders say that stone imports gradually slowed to a stop this year but hope it will start again in November.
Ejajul Hoque, customs superintendent, said the now automated port will render modern facilities with proper security at its two warehouses that have a capacity of around 600 tonnes each.
The port’s revenue was better this year as the import volume increased, he added.
Once the port is fully functional, traders will be able to import coal, stone, limestone, cement raw materials, chemical fertilisers, fruits, spices, fish fry and more, said Ashoke Sarker Apu, secretary general of the Haluaghat Exporters and Importers Group.
The port will also ease the export of garments, cement, melamine, ceramics, cosmetics, frozen and dry fish, and other packaged food items to India and Bhutan, Apu added.
Stantion Rongdee, joint secretary of the group, said there are demands for immigration facilities at the two land customs stations. If such facilities are introduced, it would increase the revenue manifold, he added.
Traders also demand direct bus services from Dhaka to Guhati to ease travel to Indian states such as Meghalaya, Assam and Nagaland.
In addition, they have been urging for a four-lane road from the land port to Mymensingh to facilitate the transport of import and export items. At present, there are some 300 traders engaged in importing coal through the port.
Shankar Saha, Vice-President of the Mymensingh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said a fully functional Gubrakura-Karaitali land port with immigration facilities would add handsome revenue for the government.