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National waterway status for Barak

Silchar, March 2: The Union ministry of road transport and shipping has sanctioned a Rs 91.50-crore scheme to upgrade a 129-km stretch of the Barak, the second longest river in the Northeast, to national waterway.

A bill to upgrade the stretch of the Barak between Lakhipur (a sub-divisional town in Cachar district) and Bhanga (in Karimganj district), via the Cachar district headquarters of Silchar, to NW6 was passed in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.

According to the Central Inland Waterways Transport Corporation (CIWTC) officials here, 2011-12 has been fixed as the deadline to upgrade the new waterway.

The waterway will facilitate transport of goods and passengers in the remote Barak valley districts and also help to link the valley with Myanmar and Bangladesh.

The scheme includes, among others, the setting up of at least four terminal stations for loading and unloading goods and passengers on the Barak waterways. The stations are Lakhipur, Silchar, Badarpur and Bhanga.

Congress MP and the Union minister from Cachar, Sontosh Mohan Dev, had been waging a relentless move to upgrade the river into a national waterway over the past few years.

Better navigation and dredging will be part of the scheme, as the river is now congested with mud, slush and garbage.

The Barak springs from a stream on Saramati hills on the Nagaland-Manipur border and flows through Manipur and south Assam to merge with the Surma. Thereafter, it enters Bangladesh, before emptying out into the Bay of Bengal.

Cargo vessels having an average weight of 10 tonnes can ply through this national waterway at a cheaper cost than those ferried by the Railways and road transport, the CIWTC officials said.

Besides, the annual floods in the Barak valley districts would be considerably minimised once ships start plying on the Barak, they added.

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