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River link plan for water transit

Agartala, Feb. 6: The Tripura government is planning to link two major rivers, the Hawra and the Gomati, to the Meghna in Bangladesh to pave the way for river transport to the neighbouring country through the northeastern state.

The state government has submitted a detailed project report on the proposed linkage to the Union ministry of shipping and water transport for approval.

The report proposes increased navigability of the two rivers by dredging and desilting at an estimated cost of Rs 23.32 crore, while the total cost for the linkage with the Meghna will be around Rs 82.72 crore.

The North Eastern Council (NEC) will provide the funds for the project.

Sources said Tripura had a water transport arrangement with erstwhile East Bengal (now Bangladesh) before 1947. But steady deposition of silt in many rivers of the state has made it difficult to make them navigable.

The Hawra, which bifurcates Agartala town, originates from Barmura hill and flows 42km before flowing into Bangladesh. Similarly, the Gomati, Tripura’s longest river, originates from the confluence of two minor rivers, the Raima and the Sarama, and flows more than 70km before flowing into the neighbouring country.

“If these two rivers can be linked up with the Meghna in Bangladesh, there is immense potential for water transport,” said a source in the Tripura transport department.

Sources said as many as 54 rivers from India flow into Bangladesh and hence, river linkages could benefit both the countries.

Sources in the transport department said the Inland Waterways Authority of India and the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority would be in charge of river transport after the project was implemented.

The sources said the states of Assam and Bengal would also have river linkages and water transit arrangements with Bangladesh.

India shares a 1,116km-long riverine border with Bangladesh.

The sources, however, admitted that dredging or desilting the Hawra and the Gomati would pose a major problem. “At present, the Hawra has been affected by destruction of forest cover, resultant decrease in volume of water and encroachment on both its banks. Even small boats cannot navigate the river except during monsoon. In case of the Gomati, the problem is not so acute except for a number of small islets, which can be dismantled. Dredging on a large scale will be required to restore the health of the two rivers,” a source said.