Processing of the first phase of the World Bank-funded $150 million (around Rs 1,000 crore) infrastructure development project of the Inland Water Transport (IWT) Directorate for the Brahmaputra river has started and it is expected that this phase of the project could be completed by 2022. The World Bank sanctioned the project in the 2017-18 financial year.
This was disclosed by IWT Joint Director M Rahman here today in a presentation made at a function organised by the Rashtriya Gramin Vikash Nidhi (RGVN) in collaboration with the CUTS International on promoting navigational usage of inland waterways in Ganga and Brahmaputra basins.
The project includes two broad components – a long-term strategic plan and institutional and capacity development, and improvement of the passenger ferry services. While the first component will cost $15 million, the second one is estimated to cost $135 million, said the IWT Joint Director.
He apprised the participants of the programme that the project will also undertake a study on the natural flow channel of the river, which is called right of the river, and impact of the project on the riparian people and the river biodiversity.
Around 6.9 million people in the State use the IWT ferry services annually on the Brahmaputra river. There are 100 ferry services of the IWT on the Brahmaputra, Barak and their tributaries. However, most of the ferry services of the State are under the unorganised sector and the Dhubri region has the maximum number of ferry services under the unorganised sector, he said.
Most of the ferry ghats (stations) on the Brahmaputra are suffering from lack of adequate infrastructure facilities. Moreover, due to frequent shifting of the Brahmaputra channel for the braided nature of the river, the IWT Directorate has so far not been able to provide permanent approach roads to the ferry ghats.
Moreover, the ferry fleet of the IWT Directorate includes poor and outdated vessels and the ferries under the unorganised sector are also of the same condition. There is also no night navigation facility in the State. The government is actively considering aid to night navigation in the State, apprised the IWT Joint Director.
It needs mention here that the CUTS International is doing a study on navigability in Ganga and Brahmaputra basins. The RGVN has joined hands with it to undertake the study jointly at four places – Dhubri, Guwahati, Majuli and Karimganj – since January 2017; and the Assam part of the study was completed in February this year.
The report of the study is under preparation and during the process of its finalisation, the opinions of stakeholders are being taken. By September, the process of consulting the stakeholders will be completed and by December this year, the report is expected to be published.
The draft report of the study was presented to stakeholders today and their opinions on the draft were taken at the function that was also addressed by Dr Veena Vidyadharan of the CUTS International and Mirza Zulfiqur Rahman, a senior research fellow of IIT Guwahati, among others.
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