The World Bank has sanctioned Rs 980 crore to dredge the Brahmaputra as an initiative to develop waterways to Bangladesh and to other South East Asian countries in a bid to boost trade and industry in the Northeast.
“Opening up of the Brahmaputra waterways for trade will lead to a reduction in the cost of transportation of goods and will ultimately result in Assam becoming a export hub for the South East Asian countries,” Assam Industries and Commerce Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary on Friday said during his address at the day-long North East Tea Conclave.
The World Bank has sanctioned Rs 980 crore for dredging the Brahmaputra which is an onerous task no doubt, but “the river will become navigable for trade purpose in the near future,” he said.
The Centre’s Act East Policy has focused aggressively on trade with South East Asian countries and “opening up the waterways will be the first step in this direction,” the minister said.
“With the opening up of the waterways, Assam gets a readymade market of Bangladesh and West Bengal with 25 crore consumers and if one is ambitious enough, trade can be extended to Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and other South East Asian countries,” he asserted.
Patowary said the Centre has also agreed to link up Assam and South East Asia with air connectivity.
“The Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport here is an international airport just in name with no flights to any country. During last month’s meeting on Regional Connectivity Policy in Delhi, I urged the Centre to add two more runways to the airport and start international flights to South East Asian countries and it was agreed upon,” he said.
The minister said the Centre has also agreed to strengthen aerial connectivity within Assam by setting up more helipads so that tea growers, buyers, packagers and other manufacturers can interact without wasting much time.