Assam plans separate river terminal, vessel management entity

      08/31/2018

The Assam Inland Water Transport Department is considering to form a new organisation to manage the river terminals and vessels, for which it will engage its existing surplus manpower in the state.

“We are actively considering to have a new set up to manage the river terminals and the vessels. It is something like airport and aircraft management. The proposed entity will be fully government controlled,” Inland Water Transport (IWT) Director BB Dev Choudhury told PTI here.

Currently, IWT sector has no enforcement, no regulations, no security checks and no registration of private small engined ‘bhootbhuti’ vessels, he said.

“IWT has more than 4,000 employees and most of them are Grade III and IV staff, who have no work. Our aim is to engage them after proper training in the new set up. We can easily route 40 per cent of the current staff to the new organisation once it is finalised,” Choudhury said.

This proposal is part of the USD 150 million World Bank project to develop the state’s inland water transport system.

“The project duration is four years and it will begin once the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) of the Centre approves. Currently, the study of the project is going on and we aim to place the proposal to DEA in February next year,” the senior Assam government official said.

He said the major challenge for the IWT in developing the waterways is absence of vessel repair facility in the state.

“The only option is to send them to Kolkata. So we are proposing to have vessel repair facilities in Guwahati, Majuli and Dhubri. Regarding terminals, we cannot have fixed set up as Brahmaputra changes its course due to erosion. That is why, we are planning to have floating terminals,” Choudhury said.

In a workshop this morning, the recommendations of a World Bank funded research study on Regional Trade and Gender Inclusive Assam Inlands Waterways Sector were discussed with various stakeholders.

The study, conducted by research firm MAZARS with support from Assam Government, provided context and insight into existing trade patterns and livelihoods strategies for communities, particularly women traders and their barriers to regional trade through inland waterways transport system.

“The growing gender disparity in Assam’s human development outcomes such as women’s workforce participation in recent years reinforces the need for developing a gender inclusive IWT services that are not only safe for women, but also help in promoting their economic opportunities,” it said.

The findings highlighted that only a small number of women use IWT for trade related activities in the state.

“The accessibility of ghats and their connectivity to other modes of transport as one of the major constraints.

Women traders living on riverine islands or upstream areas of the river with no viable alternatives were found to be most affected due to improper IWT arrangements,” the study said.