Aiming to give a boost to the inland water transport sector in the North-East, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari on Friday flagged off regular cargo transportation through waterways from Pandu Port near Guwahati to Dhubri along the Indo-Bangladesh border.
Speaking on the occasion, the Union Shipping and Water Resources Minister said: "The central government is keen to develop Brahmaputra as a major waterway for boosting trade and commerce as it would enable the cargos to ply through Bangladesh till Chittagong Port and open sea route for Assam to connect with other important ports of the country."
"An MoU has already been signed between the governments of India and Bangladesh to dredge the river Brahmaputra including the portion of the river that falls in Bangladesh for rapid development of water navigation and cargo transportation," said Gadkari, who was accompanied by Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal.
Cargo transportation through inland waterways was the cheapest mode of transportation and once the dredging work in both Brahmaputra and Barak was complete, it would bring huge economic benefit to the state and the region, he added.
The minister also called upon the state government to explore ways to develop river tourism in the state and suggested to it to initiate action for production of bio-ethanol from bamboo taking advantage of the huge bamboo plantations in the state.
Appreciating CM Sonowal for making sincere efforts to develop Majuli and the state, the Union Minister said that the central government was fully supporting the state government's endeavours to uplift the state's economy.
Gadkari also laid the foundation stone for a project for protection of river island Majuli from the floods and erosion of the Brahmaputra river and assured that the island would not shrink any further.
The central government has sanctioned an amount of Rs 233.54 crore for the project.
Addressing a public meeting, the union minister said the scheme envisaged four components including construction of geo-bag bank revetment work for a total length of 27 km, construction of RCC porcupine screens at 41 locations, construction of a Pilot Channel and construction of a sluice gate at Birinabari.
"The works implemented by Brahmaputra Board has reversed the trend from erosion to siltation. The area of land mass of Majuli island, which was 502.21 sq.km in 2004 stood at 524.29 sq.km in November last year, as per satellite imagery," he said.
The present scheme to be executed by the Brahmaputra Board was as per the recommendation of a team of experts called the Technical Advisory Committee constituted by the Union Water Resources Ministry, Gadkari said.
"My ministry has cleared the project and it is my pleasure to mention here that the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) has also agreed to allocate an amount of Rs.207 crore and the balance amount is to be funded by the Brahmaputra Board.
Gadkari also laid the foundation stone for the Brahmaputra Board office complex at Majuli, to be constructed at an estimated cost of Rs 40 crore.
Majuli island is surrounded by the mighty Brahmaputra river in the south, and Kherkatia Suti, Luit Suti and Subansiri rivers in the north and is susceptible to both floods and erosion.