World Bank commits USD 105 mn loan to improve waterways in West Bengal

PTI New Delhi | Updated on January 05, 2021

The project will enhance the quality of life of its residents and contribute to the growth of the state’s logistics sector

The World Bank has committed a USD 105 million loan for a project to improve the inland water transport infrastructure in West Bengal, the finance ministry said.

The Centre, West Bengal government and the World Bank signed an agreement to this effect on Tuesday.

The West Bengal Inland Water Transport, Logistics and Spatial Development Project will facilitate passenger and freight movement across the Hooghly river, undertake spatial planning to improve accessibility in the Kolkata Metropolitan Area (KMA).

Besides, the project will enhance the quality of life of its residents and contribute to the growth of the state’s logistics sector, the ministry said in a statement. The project will cover the five most populous districts of southern West Bengal, including its urban agglomeration, KMA, where around 30 million people or one-third of West Bengal’s population live, it said.

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Developing the river transport infrastructure will enable a large population of the state to utilise its waterways, have alternative, multi-modal options for transportation for both freight and passengers, connect the hinterland with KMA’s markets and job centers and emerge as a logistics hub.

The Hooghly river, a distributary of the river Ganga, in Kolkata separates the Kolkata port from its large consumption centers, which are, its wholesale market and the vast hinterland comprising among others the entire North East and two landlocked neighbouring countries namely, Nepal and Bhutan, it said.

More than 80 per cent of freight and passenger traffic currently cross the river via Kolkata’s three bridges, it said, adding, the city has restricted the movement of trucks to the port to certain bridges and only during limited hours, reducing access to the port and increasing the cost of logistics to curtail congestion.

West Bengal’s ferries can provide an efficient, flexible mode of public transport for both passengers and freight, saving on operating costs and travel time when compared with road journeys. The existing ferry system, operational for decades, caters to less than 2 per cent of the passenger traffic and a small portion of the freight movement.

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In the first phase, the project will enhance the capacity and improve the safety of the inland water transport system, including rehabilitating existing jetties, buying new ferries with enhanced design and installing electronic gates in 40 locations.

In the second phase, it will support long-term investments for passenger movements, including in terminals and jetties, improve the design of the inland water transport vessels, ensure night navigation on the most hazardous and trafficked routes and crossing points, and encourage the private sector to invest in Ro-Ro vessels that will allow easier movement of trucks across the Hooghly.

The USD 105 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), has a maturity of 17 years, including a grace period of 7 years.

Published on January 05, 2021

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