GUWAHATI, April 21 - An advocacy meeting organised by the Rashtriya Gramin Vikas Nidhi (RGVN) and the Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) on building civil society voice for inland water transport (IWT) for the use of cross-border inland waterways in the Brahmaputra Valley here on Wednesday called upon the civil society groups to work as pressure groups for reviving the Brahmaputra river as a major cross-border waterway.
The participants at the meeting also called upon the inland waterway sector to become vocal on the demand for subsidies from the government so as to attract private players to this sector in this part of the globe.
They expressed the apprehension that in the near future the road sector would throw a spanner to thwart any attempt at reviving the waterway sector in this part of the globe. For the purpose, the road sector is going to take recourse to the plea of maintaining ecological balance of the region, they said.
The participants also called for steps to improve night navigation on the Brahmaputra and also to encourage all government agencies, including the Army and the para-military forces, to use the region�s waterways for the purpose of transit of their goods, machinery, etc.
Besides, they said, the waterways sector should be provided with locally available modernisation facilities. They also laid stress on research and development works to develop the sector.
Speaking on the occasion, noted writer Arup Kumar Dutta regretted that bureaucratic apathy and lack of political will have led to the present deplorable state of the Brahmaputra as a waterway. This is despite the fact that the river route requires the lowest operating cost compared to the railways and the road transport network. It can be developed at a lesser cost and its carrying charges are also the lowest compared to those of the railways and the road transport sector.
However, the budgetary allocation for developing this sector is only a pittance, compared to those of the railways and the road transport sector.
River systems earlier used to be the routes to link different cultures and media of economic development. Livelihood of the poor people and the agrarian system are very much dependent on the rivers. But today, rivers have been reduced only to being sources of misery in this part, he said.
Joint Director of the Inland Waterways Transport (IWT), Assam, Musfiqure Rahman said that a transit protocol with Bangladesh has now been signed for a period of five years to use the Brahmaputra river route, via Bangladesh, for the purpose of carrying goods and machinery, etc., between the destinations located in NE and other parts of India. Earlier, this protocol was signed for a period of two years, he said.
He attributed the lack of interest of the private players to get themselves involved in this sector in this part of the country to the shorter duration periods of the transit protocols. However, he was not convincing in his reply as to how much pressure has been mounted by the State government on the Central government to sign such protocols with Bangladesh for longer periods.
The function was also addressed by Dr Amiya Kumar Sarma of the RGVN and Sumanta and S Sengupta of the CUTS, besides representatives of many NGOs engaged in the sector.