The first of the four cargo ships carrying food grains from Bihar's Patna reached at Assam's Pandu on Sunday, linking the new waterway between Brahmaputra River, national waterway-two with the Ganga, national waterway-one, via Bangladesh, officials said.A Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) official said that the first vessel carrying 200 MT of foodgrains for Food Corporation of India (FCI) reached Pandu in Assam's Kamrup Metropolitan district, heralding a new age of inland water transport.From Patna, the vessel passed through Bhagalpur, Manihari, Sahibganj, Farakka, Tribeni, Kolkata, Haldia, Hemnagar, the India-Bangladesh Protocol Route (IBPR) through Khulna, Narayanganj, Sirajganj, and Chilmari, and the National Waterway-2 through Dhubri, and Jogighopa covering a distance of 2,350 km.Union Ports, Shipping and Waterways Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, accompanied by Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, MP Queen Oja, and IWAI Chairman Sanjay Bandopadhyay, welcomed the self-propelled first vessel MV Lal Bahadur Shastri.
The second vessel, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, carrying 1,800 MT steel started from Haldia on February 17 and has already reached the Bangladesh border at Dhubri.An official statement said that IWAI is planning to run a fixed schedule sailing between NW-1 and NW-2 heralding a new age of inland water transport for Assam and the northeast region of India.In his remarks on the occasion, Sarma said that the start of cargo movement through ships via IBPR marks the beginning of a new age of economic prosperity for the entire northeast region.Sonowal said: "Today marks the beginning of a new age of inland water transport in Assam. This is going to provide the business community a viable, economic and ecological alternative. The seamless cargo transportation is a journey of unfulfilled desires and aspirations of the people of Assam."The sustained effort to rejuvenate the historical trade routes via Bangladesh got a fillip under PM Gati Shakti, he said.
The statement said that the protocol on Inland water transit and Trade (PIWTT) between India and Bangladesh will be optimally beneficial when we can unlock the value from the cargo trade in the region.It said, that to improve the navigability, two stretches of IBPR -- Sirajganj-Daikhowa and Ashuganj-Zakiganj -- are also being developed at a cost of Rs 305.84 crore, shared 80:20 by the two countries, and this is expected to provide seamless navigation to the northeastern region via the IBPR route.The contracts for dredging on the two stretches for providing and maintaining requisite depth for a period of seven years (2019-2026) are underway.In line with the "Act East" policy, the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, has taken up several infrastructure projects on NW-1, the IBPR, and NW-2, through the IWAI, to improve connectivity with the northeast region, and deal with landlocked access which has been crippling its development for long.