Union Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways and AYUSH, Shri Sarbananda Sonowal received the maiden voyage of food grains from Patna to Pandu via Bangladesh in Guwahati today.

Chief Minister of Assam, Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma and MP of Lok Sabha for Guwahati, Queen Oja joined the celebration along with Sanjay Bandopadhyay, Chairman, Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) to welcome self-propelled vessel MV Lal Bahadur Shastri carrying a total of 200 MT of food grains for Food Corporation of India (FCI) as it completed the maiden pilot run from Patna to Pandu via Bangladesh.

“IWAI is planning to run a fixed schedule sailing between NW1 and NW2 heralding a new age of inland water transport for Assam and Northeast India,” an IWAI official said.

The vessel started its sail from Patna on National Waterway-1 (river Ganga) and passed through Bhagalpur, Manihari, Sahibganj, Farakka, Tribeni, Kolkata, Haldia, Hemnagar; Indo Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) route through Khulna, Narayanganj, Sirajganj, Chilmari and National Waterway-2 through Dhubri, and Jogighopa covering a distance of 2,350 km. The dignitaries welcomed this wonderful beginning that has the potential to revolutionise the cargo movement. Another vessel MV Ram Prasad Bismil with two barges Kalpana Chawla and APJ Abdul Kalam started the voyage from Haldia on Feb 17 and is on the way to Pandu.

The vessel is carrying 1800MT Tata steel and already reached Bangladesh Border at Dhubri. The ODC (over Dimensional cargo, 252 MT) of Numaligarh Bio-refinery reached Silghat on 15th February from Haldia through IWT via the IBP route. Another ODC (250MT) consignment is also on the way to Silghat.

Speaking on the occasion, the Chief Minister of Assam, Himanta Biswa Sarma said, “The start of cargo movement through ships through Indo Bangladesh Protocol Route (IBRP) marks the beginning of a new age of economic prosperity for the whole region of Northeast. I am confident that the vision of our Prime Minister Narendra Modi and enterprise of our Union Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, Sarbananda Sonowal will pave the way for the growth and development of the inland water transport.”

Speaking on this landmark moment, Union Minister Shri Sarbananda Sonowal, said, “Today marks the beginning of a new age of inland water transport in Assam. This is going to provide the business community with a viable, economic and ecological alternative. The seamless cargo transportation is a journey of unfulfilled desires and aspirations of the people of Assam. Under the visionary leadership of the Prime Minister, the Northeast region is ready to unlock the value of the Astalakshmi. We are confident that the cargo movement via waterways is going to play a pivotal role in energising India’s northeast as the engine of growth. The sustained effort to rejuvenate the historical trade routes via Bangladesh got a fillip under PM Gati Shakti. It has been envisioned that the Northeast will slowly turn and convert into a connectivity hub. The integrated development plan, under PM Gati Shakti, has been envisioned to amp up the swift movement of cargo over the Brahmaputra.”

A statement issued by the Ports, Shipping and Waterways ministry said 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. Two stretches of IBP routes, i.e., Sirajganj-Daikhowa and Ashuganj-Zakiganj are also being developed for Rs. 305.84 crore on an 80:20 share basis (80% being borne by India and 20% by Bangladesh). The development of these stretches is expected to provide seamless navigation to NER via the IBP route. The contracts for dredging on the two stretches for providing and maintaining requisite depth for a period of seven years (from 2019 to 2026) are underway. Once the IBP Route no. 5 and 6 from Maia near Farakka in India to Aricha in Bangladesh, the IWT distance connecting NW1 to NW2 (North Eastern Region) will be further reduced by nearly 1000 km, which will reduce time and cost to a great extent.

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