Union Minister of Ports, Shipping & Waterways and Ayush, Sarbananda Sonowal on Friday said his ministry would set up a maritime institute in Assam, a step towards making the northeast an engine of growth for the country.
While addressing the Stakeholders Conclave on ‘Waterways as Engine for Growth’ in Guwahati, Sarbananda Sonowal said the Centre is giving topmost priority to northeast zone.
“Since 2014, the Prime Minister of India is working for the growth of the country with a special focus to northeast region. Now focus is given to the waterway connectivity in the region as a result Mongla and Chittagong ports are now accessible to us,” Sonowal said.
Urging the local exporters to take advantage of the waterways for transportation of their cargos, the Union Minister called upon all north-eastern states to prepare proposals for developing the existing waterways of their respective states.
Several issues for harnessing the potential of the waterways of the north-eastern region for its proper utilization were discussed during the conclave.
Assam Chief Minister Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma said that while the potentiality of waterways in the region remained dormant for a long period after Independence, it was under the leadership of PM Modi that the waterways sector received a new momentum in the northeast.
Stating waterways as the cheapest and a very eco-friendly medium of transportation, Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma urged the exporters and business communities to come forward to take advantage of the waterways.
The Assam CM further thanked Sonowal for his initiatives in rejuvenating the waterways sector for the benefit of the northeast.
“As 95 percent of county’s trade takes place through waterways, a very lucrative career option is available in this sector for the young generation,” Himanta Biswa Sarma said.
He also urged the Cochin Shipyard Limited to design some good quality river ambulances for providing better medical services to the riverine population of the state.
Union Minister of State for Ports, Shipping & Waterways Shantanu Thakur said the shipping ministry is taking initiatives to develop and use water resources and waterways for the economic development of the northeast zone.
The Ministry of Ports, Shipping & Waterways is taking initiative to promote river tourism and water sports along Brahmaputra, and has identified seven tentative locations (Oriumghat, Bhupen Hazarika Setu, Koliabhomora Bridge at Tezpur, Bogibeel Bridge, Dikhow Mukh, Kalongmukh and Uzanbazar) for development of tourist jetties.
Construction of tourists’ jetties will facilitate river cruise tourism, generate local employment and also growth for local business. These jetties would be in addition to the four tourist jetties at Jogighopa, Pandu, Neamati and Bishwanath Ghat, which have already been approved.
The ministry has initiated work on NW 2 (Brahmaputra) and NW 16 (Barak) as more waterways are considered for development and the Indo Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) route developed jointly by India and Bangladesh at an estimated cost of Rs 305.84 crore to provide an alternate connectivity for all north-eastern states from Guwahati and Jogighopa to Kolkata and Haldia ports.
The Sirajganj-Diakhowa (175 km) on River Jamuna and Ashuganj-Zakiganj (295km) of river Kushiyara on the IBP routes are being developed to connect with River Brahmaputra and River Barak (NW-16) in Assam.
The development of an Eastern Grid which will have Brahmaputra and Barak rivers along with Ganga and Sundarbans will work as a catalyst to boost regional integration and trade with South Asia and Eastern South Asia; including Myanmar and to further, potentially countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.