Assam: Scheme to provide safe, sustainable navigation in IWT sector
Assam transport minister Parimal Suklabaidya during the inspection at Pandu Port in Guwahati

Guwahati: Marine engines and safety gear are being retrofitted in semi-mechanised country boats under a scheme to provide safe, comfortable and sustainable navigation for passengers and vessels across the length and breadth of the Assam inland water transport (IWT) sector.

On Thursday, the marine engine installation programme was organised by the Directorate of Inland Water Transport, Assam (DIWTA) at Pandu Port here as a part of incentivising the ‘Jibondinga Scheme’, contemplated under the World Bank-aided Assam Inland Water Transport (AIWT) project.

Assam transport minister Parimal Suklabaidya being felicitated during the programme on Thursday

Six beneficiaries were facilitated with the marine engine and other safety gear, to be retrofitted in their existing semi-mechanised country boats under the Jibondinga scheme in the event.

Attending the marine engine installation programme, Assam transport minister Parimal Suklabaidya reiterated that the state government was committed to providing safe, comfortable and sustainable navigation for passengers and vessels across the length and breadth of the state’s IWT sector.

During the programme, Suklabaidya inspected the country boats and directed the officials and engineers of IWT to ensure proper safety standards and quality of boats, approved by the IWCS, before the installation of modern marine engines.

“Under this scheme, each boat owner will be receiving 100 per cent subsidy from the World Bank fund and the State Budget, ensuring that the marine engines will be free of cost for the beneficiaries,” the transport minister said.

A list of key Assam government officials, including Partha Pegu, director, DIWT Assam; Rahul Chandra Das additional state project director of AIWTDS along with A. Selvakumar, director of IWAI, accompanied the minister during his visit.

Notably, a considerable size of Assam’s population is dependent on semi-mechanised boats to meet their daily mobility needs, especially for people residing in isolated areas.

However, these semi-mechanised vessels, mostly operated by private owners and associations, lack adequate technology for safe navigation across the state’s navigable waterways.

Assam transport minister Parimal Suklabaidya inspects a machine fitted to a boat during the programme

To meet standards of navigation as regulated under the Inland Vessels Act, 2021, the Assam government has contemplated a plan for the improvement in safety standards and operating conditions of the semi-mechanised country boats by launching the ‘Jibondinga scheme’ under the Assam Inland Water Transport Project in collaboration with the World Bank.

The incentivising scheme primarily aims to provide incentives (including financial, training, technical assistance and insurance) to country boat operators by retrofitting existing in-use semi-mechanised vessels like “bhutbhuti” with modern marine engines with reversible gearboxes.

In its first phase under Jibondinga Scheme, the Assam government has 368 marine engines, across the districts of Nalbari, Barpeta, Darrang, Dhubri, South Salmara Mankachar, Goalpara, Bongaigaon, Sonitpur, Jorhat, Majuli, Dibrugarh and Tinsukia.

For its second phase, the state government has signed a contract with M/s Greaves Cotton Ltd for providing another set of 378 marine engines, and installation for the same is under process.

The Assam government with financial aid from World Bank has taken up a project under the name ‘Assam Inland Water Transport (AIWT) project’, to improve the quality of inland waterways transport systems by integrating high-quality passenger and vehicle ferry services in Brahmaputra and Barak rivers.

The project aims to ensure a safe, sustainable and reliable mode of transport for commuters across the state. To modernise the state’s IWT sector, the state government is accepting financial aid from the World Bank for phase-wise implementation of the AIWT project, which includes the upgrade of ferry infrastructure, fleet modernisation, institutional capacity development, et al.

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A society in the name and style of ‘Assam Inland Water Transport Development Society’ has been formed by the Assam government under the state transport department to support the implementation of the World Bank Project.

In an attempt to weave sustainability into the state’s climate agenda, the project will not only promote the use of inland waterways as an eco-friendly, cost-effective and convenient mode of transport for netizens but also drive regional and economic development for Assam and its neighbouring states.

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