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In a first, MV Lal Bahadur Shastri ships cargo from Patna to Guwahati via Bangladesh

Inland vessel MV Lal Bahadur Shastri, carrying 200 metric tonnes of food grains, was flagged off from Inland Water Terminal Gaighat in Patna to Pandu in Guwahati, on Saturday (Image courtesy: Inland Waterways Authority of India)

In a big move to steer economic resurgence of India's North East region – which also opens door to the geostrategic Southeast Asian waters through increased trade activity in future – inland vessel MV Lal Bahadur Shastri, carrying 200 metric tonnes of food grains, was flagged off from Inland Water Terminal Gaighat in Patna to Pandu in Guwahati, today.

The first food grain movement through an integrated Inland Water Transport (IWT) route is taking place via National Waterway-1 (river Ganga), NW-97 (Sunderbans), Indo-Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) route and NW-2 (river Brahmaputra).

The 25-30 day voyage will see the vessel carrying the food grains belonging to Food Corporation of India (FCI) traversing through Bhagalpur, Manihari, Sahibganj, Farakka, Tribeni, Kolkata, Haldia, Hemnagar, Khulna, NarayanganjSirajganj, Chilmari, Dhubri and Jogighopa.

The 2350 km long route is expected to establish the technical and commercial viability of IWT mode using these multiple waterways. The movement is also aimed at providing a fillip to the North East Region's industrial development by opening up an alternate route for transportation of goods.

inland waterways

It also gives a major push to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ‘Act East’ policy. The two stretches of Indo-Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) route are being developed with Bangladesh with a budget of Rs 305 crore.  

"This event is a perfect demonstration of PM's combined vision for Act East policy and the inclusive development of Bihar and the Northeast region," said Commerce and Industry minister Piyush Goyal adding that the voyage will open a new gate to the 'Gateway of Northeast' (Assam) and ensure seamless   waterways connectivity to the region through Ganga and Brahmaputra rivers.

Goyal said that under PM GatiShakti, waterways is one of the seven engines that is driving a transformative approach for economic growth and sustainable development. He said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision is to use the seven engines to achieve efficiency to reduce transport cost and remove distance barriers especially for Farmers and the MSMEs.  

The project includes construction/setting up of multi-modal terminals at Varanasi, Sahibganj and Haldia, Ro-Ro terminals, jetties, vessel repair and maintenance facilities, etc. Eighty connectivity projects are in progress under Sagarmala to connect commercial hubs with ports. 106 new waterways in 24 states have been declared as National Waterways, taking the total number to 111.

"This event is another milestone and a testament to ever-growing friendship between India and Bangladesh. India is emerging as a leading Blue Economy of the world. Government is investing in waterways in a way that was never seen before," Goyal said today.

Sarbanand Sonowal, Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways and several other key ministers and officials also attended the event organised by the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) under the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways.

The foundation stone plaque of IWAI terminal at Kalughat in Saran District of Bihar was also laid on Saturday. The site is located on river Ganga in Bihar's Saran District and the terminal is directly connected to NH-19. The terminal will be constructed at a cost of Rs 78.28 crores and will not only help in decongesting the roads of North Bihar but also provide an alternative route for transportation of cargo, especially to Nepal.

Also Read: Pandu ship repair facility fits into big plan to develop waterways in the northeast