Allocation of Rs 4,200 crore in the Union Budget was announced Thursday for the development of the Allahabad-Haldia National Waterway-1 (NW-1) is likely to give fillip to the ambitious project, which was envisaged way back in 1986.
The project, which aimed to use the 1,620 km-long channel not only for transportation of goods but also for river cruises, has been languishing for the past several years. It was to be completed in six years.
The project envisages construction of permanent terminals at various places, including Varanasi, the constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, besides floating terminals at a number of places, including Allahabad and Ghazipur.
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However, a large number of basic infrastructure works are yet to be taken up.
According to official figures, cargo transportation on NW-1 has increased from over 13 lakh Metric Tonnes (MT) in 2008-09 to 33.09 lakh MT in 2011-12. However, it came down to 27.16 lakh MT in 20012-13. Most of this movement has been towards the Haldia end of the NW-1.
Many upcoming power plants in Allahabad and other places along the channel had made the IWAI enthusiastic about transporting coal, besides other raw material. But the projects have not materialised so far.
“Last year in October, we had a vessel carrying a transformer for the upcoming power plant of the National Thermal Power Corporation in Allahabad, which could otherwise have been very difficult to be transported via rail or road. Similar equipment for a private power company was also taken till Naini using the inland waterway,” said a source in the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI). No major vessel has used the channel since, he added.
“The situation has been improving gradually, but a lot of work is yet to be done. With this budgetary announcement and a time-bound approach, we are hoping to see more and more cargo vessels plying down the channel,” said R C Pandey, office incharge of the IWAI sub-regional office at Allahabad. The IWAI has requested the World Bank to provide technical assistance, as well as investment support for ensuring navigation at LAD (Least Available Depth) of 2.5 metres to 3 metres.
The IWAI also detected at least six bridges last year that were being constructed by Uttar Pradesh Public Works Department and the Rajkiya Nirman Nigam Limited between Mirzapur and Ghazipur, which threatened to block the navigational channel.
“The work on these bridges has been stopped as their horizontal and vertical specifications were not conducive to navigation of bigger vessels. They are in the process of modifying their structures and will be given No-Objection Certificate only after the IWAI clears it,” said Pandey.