Assam govt launches project to transform Inland Water Transport

Government of Assam launched a project for transformation of the Inland Water Transport (IWT) system on the National Waterways in the state of Assam.

The project will develop an efficient river transport system which would be safe, secure and comfortable for the large volume of passenger and cargo carried by vessels by IWT as well as by private boat owners and operators.

This initiative sought to exploit the huge potential, hitherto grossly underutilized in the sector and thereby provide a vibrant mode of transport which, through the ages, was recognized as the most important one in this region.

Accordingly, Government of Assam submitted a proposal to the Government of India seeking World Bank assistance to develop the Inland Waterway Transport system in Assam. The Government of India approved the proposal and posed it to the World Bank for their consideration and approval.

The Government of Assam has taken up a Project titled ‘Assam Inland Water Transport Project (AIWTP)’ to improve the quality of inland water transport services and integrate high quality passenger and vehicle ferry services in the Brahmaputra and Barak rivers.

The Assam Inland Water Transport Development Society (AIWTDS) has been formed by the Government of Assam under Transport Department to implement the project. The project is conceptualized to promote inland water transport as eco-friendly, economic and convenient mode of transport and is aimed to help in regional and economic development of Assam and nearby states by providing better connectivity and access to the hinterland.

To modernize inland water transport in Assam, the World Bank is assisting the Government of Assam through a phase-wise project, which includes procurement of new vessels including passengers carrying and Search and Rescue (SAR) vessels, up-gradation of ferry terminals, retrofitting of existing vessels, institutional capacity development etc.

A loan negotiation for an amount of USD 110million has been successfully concluded for Assam Inland Water Transport Project (AIWTP) toexecuted by Government of Assam and the World Bank. The negotiation was carried out in presence of Director, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Government of India at the Country Head office of World Bank at New Delhi.

Assam Industries and Commerce Department also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Malaysia India Business Council (MIBC) in presence of Industries and Commerce Minister, Chandra Mohan Patwary and President, MIBC, Tan Sri Ir Kuna Sittampalam.

Both the parties agreed to explore and improve the two-way trade and investment between India and Malaysia in sectors like education, tourism, primary industries etc. Assistance will be accorded to business or trade missions from India visiting Malaysia and vice versa in seminars, conferences, exhibitions, economic and technical fairs, information bureau, symposia, or similar events taking place in each other’s country. It was also decided to accelerate engagement, trade, cultural exchange to unlock the potential sectors between Assam and Malaysia.

Minister Patwary said ‘Business and connectivity are two sides of the same coin. The trilateral highway which is expected to open by 2021 will connect Assam to Malaysia through Myanmar and Thailand. The Kaladan multi-modal project will also provide access to Sittwe sea port of Myanmar and make it easy to trade with Malaysia. The Mongla and Chittagong ports of Bangladesh will allow North East to access the South East Asian market.”

Patwary hoped that the MoU will help in embarking a new journey of exploring opportunities and pitching in investment in the potential sectors. Assuring full help and cooperation, the Minister called attention to the Malaysian delegation to invest in sectors like infrastructure, health care, food processing, tea tourism cum golf tourism, bamboo and agar which are supported by investment-friendly policies like state industrial policy, sugar policy, IT policy, export and logistic policy.

The Minister requested MIBC to open a Malaysian consulate in Guwahati and start flight connectivity between Guwahati and Kuala Lumpur. ‘Though we are divided by boundaries, our roots are same. It’s the heart to heart connection we share and with the philosophy of Atithi Devo Bhava – the guest is god, we will work together in each other’s states at the industrial sectors’, added Patowary.

Tan Sri Ir Kuna Sittampalam, President, MIBC, said that apart from the historical perspective, a comprehensive business agreement between India and Malaysia was signed in 2011 and since then the trade between the two countries has increased from USD 8 billion to USD 17.24 billion in 2018-19. Calling the MoU as a historical milestone, Sittampalam added that North East can be the food basket for Malaysia as the country imports varieties of food items from India.

Dr. KK Dwivedi, Commissioner and Secretary of Industries and Commerce Department, said that Indian origin people constitutes 9% of the total population of Malaysia which comes to a figure of 2.75 million people.