Guwahati: The movement of heavy cargo ships from Varanasi and Haldia to Pandu port in Assam through riverways is expected to begin by mid-2022, Union minister Sarbananda Sonowal said on Sunday.

During a media interaction here, the ports, shipping, and waterways minister said dredging work at critical junctures in the Ganga and Brahmaputra rivers has already been initiated by his ministry to facilitate the movement of large cargo ships.

“By mid-2022, I am hopeful that cargo ships of 2,000 metric tonnes from Haldia and Varanasi will start sailing to Pandu. This is going to be a major boost to trade and industry of the North-eastern region,” Sonowal said.

Support from experts in Tezpur University, IIT Guwahati, and IIM Shillong will be sought to make the dredging work successful in the Brahmaputra, the minister said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has instructed the authorities concerned to make arrangements to dredge a stretch of 2-2.5 metre in the two rivers so that cargo vessels, passenger ships, and even seaplanes can use the water bodies, he said.

“The potential of the Brahmaputra as well as other rivers of Northeast is huge and people will get direct benefit from the development of river tourism, cargo transportation, and an alternative economic transportation system, Sonowal said.

The Bangladesh government, with support from the Government of India, is working on a stretch of the Jamuna river to make the 2,000-kilometre-long waterway from Sadiya in Assam to Haldia in West Bengal, through the neighbouring nation, a smooth passage.

The minister said that the north-eastern region will play a critical role in reviving the economic prosperity of the country.

Noting that there have been efforts to build waterways of the region and connect them to major ports in the Bay of Bengal, Sonowal said, this will not only unlock the economic potential of the region but allow the landlocked region direct access to international trading routes.

We are working to connect Mizoram, Tripura, and Assam to three strategic ports — Sittwe in Myanmar, and Mongla and Chittagong in Bangladesh,” the Union minister said.

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