The cabinet yesterday decided in principle to sign the Asian Highway Network (AHN) agreement, accepting the proposed routes, and make Bangladesh a member of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-ESCAP).
The proposed three routes of the AHN are Benapole-Jessore-Dhaka-Kanchpur-Sylhet-Tamabil, Banglabandha-Hatikamrul-Dhaka-Kanchpur-Sylhet-Tamabil and Mongla-Jessore-Dhaka-Kanchpur-Chittagong-Cox's Bazar-Teknaf-Myanmar border.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina chaired the cabinet meeting, Press Secretary to the Prime Minister Abul Kalam Azad told reporters after the meeting.
Meeting sources said the cabinet initially emphasised the importance of the third route to avoid controversies. They said the BNP-Jamaat coalition government held three cabinet meetings on the issue but failed to make any decision, which the cabinet yesterday termed very unfortunate.
The decision will be made into a bill and placed at the parliament for its verdict.
During the meeting, held at the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), Hasina wanted to know from the communications minister and secretary whether Bangladesh has any option to negotiate the proposed routes. They replied that becoming member is a prerequisite to negotiating for route changes.
"We cannot remain aloof in the age of globalisation. We have to go forward with the network in the interest of socio-economic development of the country," Abul Kalam told newsmen quoting Sheikh Hasina as saying.
The cabinet also approved in principle the Islami University (amendment) Act, 2009, and the Government Water Body Management Policy, 2009.
As per the Government Water Body Management Policy, 2009, fishermen will get lease of government water bodies. Azad said there are 28,879 government water bodies and 25,674 of them are smaller than 20 acres.
He said the Upazila Water Body Management Committee would deal with the smaller water bodies while the district committee will deal with water bodies larger than 20 acres.