Sarbananda Sonowal, Union Minister for Ports, Shipping, and Waterways, flagged off the first cargo vessel of the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) carrying 200 metric tonnes of food grains from Patna to Pandu in Guwahati via the rivers Ganga and Brahmaputra via Bangladesh on Saturday.
The Food Corporation of India (FCI), in collaboration with the IWAI, has launched a first-of-its-kind initiative to transport foodgrains to northeastern states via a riverine route. The MV Lal Bahadur Shastri, carrying rice in 3,700 double gunny packs, is expected to cover a distance of around 2,350 km in 25 days and arrive in Pandu, Assam, in the first week of March. The rice will be transported to the FCI depot in Changsari, Assam’s Kamrup district, after being unloaded at Pandu Port.
Piyush Goyal, Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, joined the event in Patna virtually from New Delhi.
The vessel will travel through national waterways 1 of the Ganga to Pandu in Guwahati, which is located on the bank of the Brahmaputra (national waterways 2), via Bangladesh via the Indo-Bangladesh Protocol (IBP).
The ship will travel through Bhagalpur, Manihari (Bihar), Sahibganj (Jharkhand), Farakka, Tribeni, Kolkata, Haldia, Hemnagar (West Bengal), and Dhubri and Jogighopa (Assam). IWAI intends to operate regularly scheduled services on these routes.
Speaking at the event, Sonowal stated that the country’s two major rivers, the Ganga and the Brahmaputra, would be linked for waterway operation via the IBP route in Bangladesh, which includes Khulna, Narayanganj, Sirajganj, and Chilmari. “Traders from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Bangladesh will benefit from the operation of waterways, as both the Ganga and the Brahmaputra have been connected,” he said at the Patna event.
The FCI has also begun using bulk foodgrain movement via specialised waggons, container movement, and coastal or riverine movement.
The use of riverine transportation is expected to boost economic activity and to provide a viable alternative to the traditional mode of transportation of foodgrain for the NE region.