National highways are very important for the development of a country, but waterways are most important. Water transport in India has played a significant role in the country’s economy and is indispensable to foreign trade. India has an extensive network of inland waterways.
The total navigable length of the inland waterways is 14,500 km, out of which about 5,200 km of river and 4,000 km of canal can be used by mechanized crafts. It is also the cheapest modes of transport. The cost of water transport in India is roughly 50 paise a kilometre, as compared to Rs 1 by railways and Rs 1.5 by roads.
Assam with two main rivers – Brahmaputra (National Waterways 2) and Barak with numerous tributaries has multifarious economic advantages. Apart from constructing hydroelectric power plants, the state can also promote river tourism and trade.
The Assam Government recently negotiated a loan for an amount of USD 110 million with the World Bank to give a makeover to the 61-year-old state inland water transport. A project taken by the state government includes procurement of new vessels including passengers carrying and Search and Rescue (SAR) vessels, up-gradation of ferry terminals, retrofitting of existing vessels, institutional capacity development etc.
The negotiation was done after the approval of the proposal of the central government seeking the World Bank’s assistance to develop and modernise the 61-year-old IWT system in the state.
It needs to be mentioned that the state IWT in February this year introduced four new Roll on-Roll off (Ro-Ro) vessels for better service between North Bank and the South Bank of the Brahmaputra river in Guwahati. Back in October 2018, the IWT introduced Ro-Ro service between Neamati and Majuli, the river island district. This cut down the circuitous road route of 423 Km that trucks take from Neamati to Majuli via Tezpur Road Bridge, by limiting the distance to only 12.7 KM with the use of river route.
Way back in 2016, the parliament had passed the National Waterways Bill 2015 with a minor amendment for the development of 111 waterways to enable movement of passenger and goods.
Developing the entire spectrum of inland waterways would require substantial funding. The state government’s proper utilisation of the loan to develop the water transport system will definitely boost the economy of the state.
Photo credit: Mariner Desk