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West Bengal to revamp river transport tourism infra under World Bank assistance

Pratim Ranjan Bose Kolkata | Updated on July 12, 2018 Published on July 12, 2018

Taking a cue from the Centre’s Jal Marg initiative, the West Bengal government has taken a move to optimise river transport and tourism potential under a $151 million (₹1,021 crore) World Bank assistance.

While the Centre’s ₹5,369 crore Ganga Jal Marg project will pave way for cargo movement along the National Waterway-I from Varanasi to Haldia; the State initiative is primarily looking at optimising the potential of both cargo and passenger movement across the river.

Ro-Ro service

West Bengal shares 560 km of the 1,380 km NW-I. Along this course there are only 12 bridges, including three in Kolkata. The World Bank aided project aims to fill the gap by adding 10 Ro-Ro ferry services. Ro-Ro service offers seamless solution to ferry vehicles, laden with passenger or cargo.

According to State sources, each of the new Ro-Ro-facilities will cost an estimated ₹25 crore including specialised jetty and vessel.

A separate scheme, outside the scope of the World Bank project, is launched to revamp the three existing Ro-Ro facilities around the Sunderbans area.

Incidentally, the State has also finalised a plan to build two more bridges on Ganga to improve connectivity.

Regularising ferry operations

Apart from Ro-Ro, the State will also build 56 modern jetties at ₹4 crore each and renovate 24 existing jetties along the 156-km stretch from Haldia to Triveni under World Bank assistance.

To supplement ferry operations nearly 320 new vessels will also be pushed into service. A separate plan is underway to modernise jetties from Triveni in Hooghly to Farakka, in the North, using State resources.

“There are roughly 500 ferry services along the river in Bengal. Some of them are wooden jetties. With time, we will modernise them all,” said a source.

With modernisation the State is also aiming better regulation on ferry operations. Currently the ferry operations are highly disintegrated and unorganised with different departments or civic bodies owning jetties. Many or most of such jetties are poorly maintained leading to accidents.

The plan is to bring the entire ferry services including jetties under an umbrella organisation under the transport department to ensure strict regulation.

Tourism

A good part of the World Bank assistance will be spent in introducing 50 water taxis and four cruise vessels to promote river based tourism and entertainment activities.

“West Bengal has roughly one sixth of the country’s waterway network. It offers an immense opportunity to promote tourism and leisure activities.

Currently private operators run a few such services. We want to add new cruise circuits to enhance the tourism potential along Ganga,” the official said.

Published on July 12, 2018
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