Indian authorities in Guwahati on Sunday received the maiden voyage of food-grains from Patna to Pandu via Bangladesh.
An event was held to welcome the self-propelled vessel MV Lal Bahadur Shastri carrying a total of 200MT of foodgrains for Food Corporation of India (FCI) – completing a maiden pilot in this route.
The Sarbananda Sonowal, India's union minister of ports, shipping and waterways, accompanied by CM of Assam, Himanta Biswa Sarma received the maiden voyage of food-grains.
According to Indian media, this initiative has ushered in a new age for inland waterways in Assam as Brahmaputra (NW2) gets connected with Ganga (National Waterway-1) via the Indo-Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) route.
MV Lal Bahadur Shastri sailed some 2,350km from Patna on NW-1 and passed through Bhagalpur, Manihari, Sahibganj, Farakka, Tribeni, Kolkata, Haldia, Hemnagar; Indo Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) route through Khulna, Narayanganj, Sirajganj, Chilmari and NW-2 through Dhubri, and Jogighopa.
Meanwhile, another vessel MV Ram Prasad Bismil with two barges Kalpana Chawla and APJ Abdul Kalam started voyage from Haldia on 17 February, 2022, and is on the way to Pandu.
The vessel is carrying 1,800MT Tata steel and already reached the Bangladesh border at Dhubri.
The ODC (over dimensional cargo, 252MT) of Numaligarh Bio-refinery reached Silghat on 15 February, 2022, from Haldia through IWT via IBP route.
Another ODC (250MT) consignment is also on the way to Silghat.
While addressing the media, Sonowal said, "Today marks the beginning of a new age of inland water transport in Assam. This is going to provide the business community with a viable, economic and ecological alternative.
"The seamless cargo transportation is a journey of unfulfilled desires and aspirations of the people of Assam. The Northeast region is ready to unlock the value of the Astalakshmi."
Meanwhile, Assam CM Sarma said, "The start of cargo movement through ships through Indo Bangladesh Protocol Route marks the beginning of a new age of economic prosperity for the Northeast region."
This effort to rejuvenate the historical trade routes via Bangladesh got a big push under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's PM Gati Shakti initiative and is expected to ramp up swift movement of cargo over Brahmaputra.
The IWAI is also planning to run a regular scheduled service on these routes.
As per Indian media, to improve the navigability, two stretches of IBP routes, i.e., Sirajganj-Daikhowa and Ashuganj-Zakiganj are also being developed at a cost of Rs305.84 crores on an 80:20 share basis (80% being borne by India and 20% by Bangladesh).
The contracts for dredging on the two stretches for providing and maintaining requisite depth for a period of seven years (from 2019 to 2026) are underway which will further reduce nearly 1,000km.