KOLKATA: After the initial bid to make the 1,380-km stretch of the Ganga river from Varanasi to Kolkata navigable round the year, the Centre is now focussing on converting the Rs. 5,369-crore, World Bank-aided Jal Marg Vikash Project into an economic corridor.
On May 26, the implementing agency, Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) will meet World Bank experts to explore the possibility of setting up a freight village – loosely described as a logistics and trading hub – in Varanasi.
With inland waterway and its allied terminal facilities under construction, Varanasi is emerging as a Multi-Modal logistics hub, located in close proximity to NH-2 and NH-7 and the upcoming Dedicated (rail) Freight Corridor.
The benefits can be optimised if Varanasi is converted into the mother trading hub, from where goods can move across the region. That would attract huge investments in trading logistics such as warehousing and others.
“The project will require 80 to 100 acres of land. We are confident that the project will get the support of the UP Government,” IWAI Vice-Chairman Pravir Pandey said on the sidelines of an Inland Waterway and Coastal Shipping seminar organised by the Indian Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday.
“Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das offered 5,000 acres of land in Sahebgunj,” Pandey said.
Jal Marg Vikash aims to create a 35-metre-wide channel in the Ganga to run vessels of 1,500-2,000 tonne dry weight capacity, which is close to the carrying capacity of a goods train.
The estimated cargo movement by the river is 22 million tonne in 2022 and 45 mt by 2030 – up from the existing 4.5 mt. The cargo will primarily come from road transport.
The cement industry has already evinced interest in the project. IWAI is now conducting pilots with Dalmia Cement and Ultratech.
A total of six terminals will be built across the stretch. This will include three Multi-Modal and two Intermodal terminals. One of them at Gazipur (UP) would help tranship LNG to Nepal.
On the cards are two ship-repairing facilities at Haldia and Farakka in West Bengal. A new lock-gate at Farakka barrage is under construction that will ensure fast movement.
In three years from the conception in July 2014, Rs. 1800 crore worth of projects are already awarded and under construction. Nearly 500 crore worth of dredging contracts are underway. “Unlike in the past, we are focussing on dredging only the shoals (natural ridges) that too to create the 35 metre wide channel with assured draft.
The motto is to do limited disturbance to the river,” he said.
To create the legal framework to enable modern inland waterway transport; the Centre has drafted a Bill to amend the century-old Inland Vessels Act.