Jorhat, Nov. 22: Dispur is exploring the possibility of a regular water transport route on the Brahmaputra from Dhubri (lower Assam) to Sadiya in Tinsukia district of Upper Assam.
Using the river route has several benefits. Prominent among these is that the transportation cost is expected to be cheaper than the roadways.
The river has to be freed from silt also carried by the water in huge quantities from the hills in Arunachal Pradesh to keep the river navigable. This helps control erosion.
Assam water resources minister Rajib Lochan Pegu, who was here on a tour yesterday, told The Telegraph that chief minister Tarun Gogoi was interested in having a regular waterway on the Brahmaputra. The minister said the department has asked the Inland Waterways Authority of India to conduct a survey on establishing a regular waterway on the Brahmaputra and prepare a proposal.
The IWAI is the statutory authority in charge of the waterways in the country with headquarters at Noida in Uttar Pradesh.
The job of the authority, which has a branch in Guwahati, is to build necessary infrastructure in the waterways, surveying the economic feasibility of new projects and also looking after administration and regulation.
Lochan said a preliminary estimate done by his department has shown that transportation of goods to a huge part of the state (about 15 districts) could be done through the waterway.
He said the transportation cost is expected to come down considerably as the distance from Dhubri to Sadiya via the Brahmaputra will be reasonably less than road distance covered by trucks and trains. Moreover, the capacity of a boat or ship to carry volume of goods is more than a truck and fuel consumption was said to be economic and less polluting, he added.
There will also be no traffic congestion unlike roads, reducing the chances of accidents.
Pegu said the statewide calls for strikes given by every other organisation off and on will have no impact on the waterway. This will lower the chances of unscrupulous elements exorbitantly increasing the prices of essentials after the strikes.
The minister said all markets zones on both banks of the Brahmaputra could be covered by the waterway and banks could be developed like dockyards to generate employment.
To keep the waterway navigable, the river has to be kept free from silt and this exercise could be beneficial to check floods and erosion, Pegu said.
He said the government has upgraded the existing Assam Water Research and Management Institute in Guwahati to carry out detailed research on changing river patterns and all kinds of hydrological studies in view of global climatic changes.
Chief engineer (water resources department) Haren Kakati said the institute would outsource well-known experts while preparing project reports on management of rivers.