Guwahati, July 24: The national transport development policy committee has recommended to the Planning Commission in its report for the Twelfth Five-Year Plan that inland water transport arrangements should be devised in such a manner that stakeholders in both India and Bangladesh benefit significantly.
The committee also said active and positive participation from Bangladesh is needed for successful execution of the inland water transport arrangements.
The report said given that the available draught in the waterways is low, the appropriate strategy would be to focus on the waterways in the Northeast by setting up terminals and cargo handling facilities at strategic locations, thus providing strategic links in the region.
The report submitted last month said the Twelfth Five-Year Plan should make a new departure in this area so that international considerations are taken aboard during the planning process through an appropriate consultation framework.
“The Indo-Bangladesh protocol on inland water transit and trade already exists and efforts should be made to extend the validity of this protocol for at least 20 years as this would provide stability to the trading environment and hence, enable appropriate investment planning in both the public and private sectors,” it said, adding that it would also pave the way for the development of public-private partnership in the development, management and operation of inland water transport in the region. “There is scope for further analysis of mutually advantageous options for inter-country waterways linkages as far as the protocol is concerned,” it said.
Official sources said the extension of the protocol for a longer duration has not happened as the tenure of the last protocol that expired on March 31 this year received a two-year extension only on its renewal.
The committee said if such a policy and planning framework is put in place, investments can be stimulated in areas such as modern material handling facilities along the Brahmaputra at key places, barges that can promote containerised traffic on the Brahmaputra and Barak rivers and creation of multi-modal hub facilities at appropriate points such as Badarpur in Assam and small-scale inland water transport for both passengers and cargo.
“For such investments to become feasible they would have to pass the economic and financial viability tests. This will be facilitated by the announcement of public investment programmes in the Twelfth plan related to the strengthening of the Inland Waterways Authority of India for undertaking the creation of infrastructure and a stable policy framework that results from international arrangements,” the report said.