The Varanasi river terminal under the World Bank-aided Ganga Jal Marg Vikash Project will be completed this year, ahead of schedule, according to sources. In a recent assessment, the Bank expressed satisfaction at the progress of the 5,369-crore project.
Jal Marg Vikash is an ambitious infrastructure project of the Narendra Modi government and is expected to have an electoral impact.
Implemented by the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), it envisages creation of all-weather river transport facility, capable of carrying 45 million tonnes of cargo along the 1,400-km stretch of the Ganga between Varanasi and Kolkata (National Waterway-1) by 2022.
Contracts have been awarded for the construction of three terminals, each capable of handling two-three million tonnes of cargo a year. The contract for a second lock at the Farakka Barrage to pace up vessel movement has also been awarded.
The World Bank project implementation support mission, which has just concluded its independent survey on the progress, reported 21 per cent completion against a target of 18 per cent.
“The World Bank found the progress satisfactory,” Pravid Pandey, Vice-Chairman of IWAI, told. IWAI expects approximately 40 per cent of the Jal Marg Vikash Project to be completed in 2018-19.
According to Pandey, work on the Varanasi multi-modal terminal is 67 per cent complete and construction of the Sahebganj terminal in Jharkhand is nearly halfway (49 per cent) through. “We are expecting to complete the terminal in 2018,” he said.
Construction of the second lock at the Farakka Barrage is 35 per cent complete. The current lock takes a minimum of two hours to let a ship cross the barrage.
IWAI sources said construction of the Haldia terminal in West Bengal began way behind schedule, due to delay in coastal regulatory approval from the State government. However, the project is progressing well. Once completed, all the terminals will be managed by private operators.
To facilitate cargo movement from Kolkata, IWAI has entered into a 30-year contract with Bangladesh’s Summit Alliance in April this year to operate and maintain a jetty at Garden Reach near the Kolkata Dock Complex. As part of the project, the Adani group has been awarded the contract to dredge the Farakka- Kahalgao section of the Ganga for five years.
“Unlike in the past, we are focussing on dredging only the shoals (natural ridges) to create a 35-metre-wide channel with assured draft, causing limited disturbance to the river,” the IWAI Vice-Chairman said.
A project is also under way to identify designs for barges with capacity to carry 1,500-2,000 tonnes of cargo (which is a little less than the capacity of an average goods train). The designs will be made available free of cost to prospective investors in barge manufacturing. The agency has appointed Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to prepare detailed project reports on ferry movement across the Ganga in Varanasi. A similar DPR will be launched on the ferry movement in Kolkata soon. The DPRs will identify suitable locations and viability.
Mandated to focus on cargo movement, IWAI cannot develop ferry projects. Also, ferries are a State subject.
Once the DPRs are ready, State governments are free to approach the Urban Development Ministry to access funds under the Atal Mission for Urban Transport to develop ferry terminals.