Guwahati, Nov 8: To ensure safety and to further expand the vital water transportation in Assam, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Monday flagged off four World Bank-funded steel catamaran vessels at the Pandu Port in Guwahati.
Officials of the Inland Water Transport (IWT) department said that the four high-quality vessels would integrate passenger and vehicle ferry services into the state's wider transport network system. Out of the four vessels with the capacity of 100 passengers and 50 two wheelers and powered by 180 HP twin engines each, two would be operated on river Brahmaputra at Majuli and one each in between Guwahati-North Guwahati and Uzanbazar-Umananda ferry ghats.
The vessels have advanced equipment including control and monitoring, communication and navigation, GPS, echo-sounder, wind measurement, lifesaving and firefighting equipment etc. Speaking on the occasion, the Chief Minister said that the culture and civilisation of Assam is nurtured by the Brahmaputra and Barak rivers and their tributaries.
However, these rivers also pose challenges in terms of communication for people living on both the banks and government efforts are also therefore underway to rejuvenate river transportation in Assam.
Sarma said the IWT department had earlier signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the World Bank, which sanctioned an amount of Rs 770 crore towards realising the state government's efforts to improve river transportation. Out of the Rs 770 crore, the Centre would refund 80 per cent while the state government would bear the remaining 20 per cent cost.
Sarma said that after the boat accident at Nimatighat (on September 8), the state government took an aggressive approach to make river transportation more secure and hassle-free.
Three persons were killed when a private boat with around 100 people onboard capsized and sank in the Brahmaputra on September 8. He said that steps are being taken to fit a marine engine to 853 boats having a single engine. Sarma said that the state government is working to rejuvenate river transportation through technological interventions and under this initiative, an earlier e-ticketing system was introduced for Jorhat-Majuli and on Monday it has been introduced for the Uzanbazar-Umananda ferry ghats.
Highlighting the steps taken by the IWT department for improvement of inland water transport system in the state, Transport Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary said that prior to the Nimatighat boat mishap, 16 boats used to ply between Majuli and Jorhat and government efforts are on to increase the number to 20.
Patowary also informed that the department would procure five roll on/roll off passenger ferry vessels and introduce 10 more catamaran vessels into the service next year as these are presently under construction.