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Barak stretch to get national waterway tag

Guwahati, Jan. 10: The Union cabinet today approved introduction of a bill in Parliament for declaring the Lakhipur-Bhanga stretch (121km) of the Barak river a national waterway, a second for the Northeast.

The first national waterway was NW 2-Brahmaputra which was declared a national waterway in 1988. The Lakhipur-Bhanga stretch (121km) of the Barak will now become National Waterway 6.

Sources said though the Brahmaputra was declared a national waterway in 1988, the volume of cargo transported through the waterway is still not much throwing questions as to what will happen with the newly declared waterway if enough cargo is not transported.

In 2004-05, cargo movement on the Brahmaputra was 10,017.16 tonnes which came down to 1,592.27 tonnes in 2010-11 because of various reasons. The major commodities being sent along the waterway are coal, cement, high-speed diesel and edible oil.

Numaligarh Refinery Ltd has already decided to stop sending export consignments on National Waterway 2 (the Brahmaputra), signalling further reduction in cargo movement along the river.

The cabinet also gave its approval for preparation of projects/schemes for development of infrastructure facilities on Lakhipur-Bhanga stretch (121km) of the Barak river at an estimated cost of Rs 123 crore with implementation in two phases.

The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) set up under IWAI Act, 1985, will be the implementing agency for this project.

Official sources said the enactment to declare Lakhipur-Bhanga stretch of the Barak a national waterway would result in unified development of the waterways for shipping and navigation and transportation of cargo to the Northeast, particularly in Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh.

At a policy dialogue meeting here today on Transboundary Inland Navigation: A Way Forward organised under Ecosystems for Life: A Bangladesh-India Initiative IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) project, participants both from Bangladesh and India discussed ways and challenges for movement of cargo through waterways.

Bangladesh MP Junaid Ahmad Palak who was present at the meeting called for joint efforts of both countries for development of inland waterways.

The joint research team of Ecosystems for Life project had recommended extension of protocol route up to Silchar which could be useful for both transit traffic and Bangladesh’s trade with the Northeast.