The World Bank may provide a grant to develop India’s under-utilised network of rivers and canals as an alternative mode of transport.
The Shipping Ministry has said it will seek a technical assistance grant of $70 million from the World Bank to build a transport connectivity grid linking waterways in the eastern region with its South Asian neighbours.
The Eastern Waterways Connectivity Transport Grid (EWaCTG) project aims to provide seamless connectivity between National Waterway-1 (NW-1) and NW-2 through the Indo-Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) routes, and develop an economic corridor of 4,200 km of waterways and coastal shipping for Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and the North-Eastern States. The aim is to pave the way for the regional integration of five countries — India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar — in the South Asian region, a Shipping Ministry official said.
EWaCTG seeking technical assistance of $70 million from the World Bank was appraised and recommended for approval by the screening committee of the Department of Economic Affairs during a meeting on February 18, the official said.
Developing a water grid was one of the Budget announcements of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in 2019.
The World Bank had earlier approved a $375-million grant to the government to develop the 1,620-km NW1 between Haldia and Allahabad. The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) is implementing the project, called ‘Jal Marg Vikas’, on the Ganga. It seeks to develop and improve navigational infrastructure and maintain a depth of at least 3 metres to help commercial navigation of 1,500 tonne ships.
In January, the Centre, the Assam government and the World Bank signed a loan agreement for $88 million to help modernise Assam’s passenger ferry sector that runs on its rivers including the mighty Brahmaputra. The majority of Assam’s more than 350 ferry routes cross the river or serve its islands, providing a crucial means of transport to thousands of commuters in both the urban and rural areas of the Brahmaputra valley. The Assam Inland Water Transport Project (AIWTP) will help the State improve its passenger ferry infrastructure and services and strengthen the capacity of the institutions running the inland water transport system.
The $88-million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), the lending arm of the World Bank, has a maturity of 14.5 years including a grace period of five years.