New Delhi, Aug. 14: The Rajya Sabha today passed the National Waterway (Lakhipur-Bhanga stretch of the Barak river) Bill, 2013, paving an alternative route to connect the Northeast with the rest of India.
On its scheduled completion by 2018-19, the 121km national waterway number 6, as it will be called, will provide an alternative mode of transportation for movement of commodities from Haldia and Calcutta ports through the India-Bangladesh protocol route for transit and trade and hinterland cities like Lakhipur, Silchar, Panchgram, Badarpur and Karimganj. It will provide all-weather connectivity with Haldia and Calcutta ports, not only for Assam but also for Mizoram, Tripura and Manipur, official sources said. “It will be an alternative to the only existing route through the chicken’s neck (road and rail route connecting Assam and Bengal),” shipping minister G.K. Vasan told the Rajya Sabha today while replying to a short discussion on the bill. More than one crore people in the Barak Valley and elsewhere in Assam will benefit from the waterway, he added.
A standing committee examining the bill recently suggested the waterway should be extended to Chittagong port and a protocol should be signed with Bangladesh.
Congress MP Bhubaneshwar Kalita pointed out that while he welcomed the bill the government should ensure safety is prioritised. Vasan assured that safety would be taken care of.
An estimated inland water transport traffic to the tune of 12.45 lakh tonnes will be handled at four terminals at Lakhipur, Karimganj, Silchar and Badarpur. The work will include development of river with infrastructure facilities for shipping and navigation, channel marking, construction of terminals, transit sheds and installation of handling equipment.
The project will spend an estimated Rs123.34 crore over the next five years.