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WB-funded Assam IWT project work in top gear

“Plan to be placed before economic affairs directorate by 2018 end”


From Saurav Borah

GUWAHATI: Come 2019, ferrying across the Brahmaputra will not only be pleasurable but also a safe experience with the wheels of the World Bank-funded Assam Inland Water Transport Project gaining momentum.

Once implemented, the US $150million project will not only have in place world-class infrastructure, particularly sophisticated vessels and state-of-the-art passenger-friendly river terminals, but will ensure that regulation and operation of the entire transport system is in compliance with global safety standards.

“As of now, the World Bank has provided Rs 16crore to prepare the project which will be ready by the end of 2018. Thereafter, it will be placed before the directorate of economic affairs (DEA), government of India and subsequently presented before the World Bank authorities,” Assam Inland Water Transport (IWT) director, Bharat Bhushan Dev Choudhury told The Shillong Times on Friday.

The major component of the five-year project, which was cleared by the World Bank board last year, will be the procurement of modern vessels and construction of state-of-the-art river terminals.

“Besides, under allied components, infrastructure to facilitate night navigation, proper signaling system and emergency response system (in the wake of a disaster) among other facilities will be in place,” Dev Choudhury said.

In accordance with the guidelines of World Bank, the Assam IWT Development Society was registered for implementation of the project.

“Since we do not have the expertise, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has been engaged after global tendering as the general consultant to prepare an integrated strategy development plan. Besides, a German firm, Inros Lackner, has been roped in to study the entire transportation network in the state and how IWT can be supplemented to develop an integrated mode of transport,” he said.

PwC will also prepare the request for proposal and bid document.

“Currently, Inros Lackner is making a feasibility study and examining aspects such as velocity, sedimentation, location of river terminals besides determining the types of modern vessels that would be required, and most importantly, framing new rules and regulations under which the integrated transport system will operate,” the IWT director said.

Smaller firms will also be engaged under the project to design the river terminals, equipping them with modern amenities and making them friendly for passengers, particularly the physically challenged, infirm and elderly.

“We have selected National Law University, Guwahati, to prepare first draft of regulations. The long-term plan is to restructure IWT with the state government as the regulatory authority under which there will be two companies, one for operation of ferries/cargo and the other for river terminals,” he said.

The private sector, the official said, will also play a key role in the operations of ferry services under the project.

As many as 47 passengers of a ferry had lost their lives in a mishap at Medattari in Dhubri district on April 30, 2012, bringing to the fore serious deficiencies in disaster response planning, regulations, safety equipment and communication systems of the department.

“The project as a matter of fact is the outcome of the enquiry report of the mishap at Medattari, which would take into consideration all issues, including safety of passengers,” Dev Choudhury said.

Assam has the largest network of navigable waterways (nearly 2000km) in the country. Ferry services on the Brahmaputra and Barak rivers carry nearly 7.5million passengers annually.


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