GUWAHATI: The World Bank has approved a loan of Rs. 630 crore to Assam Inland Water Transport (AIWT) for the modernization of the State’s passenger ferry services on the Brahmaputra and other rivers. Ferry mishaps are routine in Assam when the Brahmaputra and other rivers of the State are in spates.
Under the Assam Inland Water Transport Project (AIWTP), the infrastructure of passenger ferry services will be improved and the capacity of institutions running the inland water transport will be strengthened. Better-designed terminals and energy-efficient vessels are likely to make the ferry services more sustainable with least disruption to nature. Of the total project cost of Rs. 770 crore, the bank will provide Rs. 630 crore, and the remaining amount will have to come from the State government.
The loan agreement was signed on Thursday between the AIWTP and the Country Director, India, World Bank in the presence of Additional Secretary (FB & ADB), Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Government of India in New Delhi. The delegation on behalf of Assam was represented by Adil Khan, State Project Director, Assam Inland Water Transport Development Society (AIWTDS) and others. With the World Bank’s support, the Government will create an institutional framework to turn inland waterways into a mode of transport which is both attractive and well-suited to the people, a press release said.
The project will also help build modern ferry terminals. It will follow the ‘working-with-nature’ principle that aims to design new infrastructure and rehabilitate the existing one in a way that works with natural river processes. The project will be initiated at Guwahati and Majuli.
The project will also improve the infrastructure of ferry services and focus on safety of women passengers. The terminals will have better access, lighting and signages, while the new vessels will be equipped with individual seats and washroom facility. A strengthened regulatory regime will ensure reduced overloading, adherence to time schedule and better crew standards, the release added.