The Himachal Pradesh government on Saturday rolled out a novel plan to use its potential waterways as an alternate mode of transport to cut-down number of vehicles on the hill roads, which are getting increasingly choked up and resulting in environmental pollution.
Four water channels have been identified so far for exploring possibilities of alternate transport means for tourism, trade and also for mobility of farm sector goods, beside passenger transport.
State transport minister G S Bali said a team from the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) was already in the town to hold high-level talks with top officials of the transport department and to give a final shape to the project submitted to the centre.
Chamera dam in Chamba district, Pong dam in Kangra, Pandoh in Mandi and Govind Sagar (Bilaspur) are the four sites for which proposals have been submitted to the Centre. The entire funding will be provided by the Centre while the state government will be required to have its own rules regulating the waterways transport sector.
At a press conference in Shimla, Bali said he had held discussions with Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari who has accepted the proposal since Himachal Pradesh was the first state which has come out with such a idea to use waterways for transit.
The Minister informed that the Centre had already provided Rs 1.50 crore to the state for construction of embankment facilities and as a next step, the government want linkages for making the waterways transport operational.
“The i-Maritime, a Mumbai-based consultancy firm, was making necessary studies for Himachal Pradesh on behalf of the IWAI. They will also be suggesting the type of vessels to be used for passenger and cargo transit. We can also use this medium for benefit of the farmers to transport their cash crops to road heads,” said Bali.
Bali had already announced the plan to phase-out diesel vehicles in Himachal Pradesh and all HRTC buses more than nine years old to be taken off the roads from January 1.
The minister said the Centre has agreed to provide 25 electric buses to the state while 50 small electric buses have also been sought from the Centre. The government will set-up 20 charging stations for the electric buses.
Asked about plan on two-wheelers and taxis, Bali said “The scheme will soon be announced allowing bikes to be used as taxi service. The HRTC will upgrade its Volvo-bus service by inducting 15 new vehicles. There will be a provision for blankets for passengers on payment buses during night journeys in the winters. The McLeodganj-Srinagar Volvo-bus service will now be rolled out in February 2016, which has been put off to some days due to severe winter.”
Earlier, the minister presided over a meeting of with the board of directors of the HRTC and approved new facilities for the passengers and HRTC staff including setting-up of ATM machines, free-wifi points and multi-purpose assistance booths near all bus stands, which will be run by NGOs.