GUWAHATI, March 28 - With India looking to have closer links with the South Asian countries, the Namami Brahmaputra festival will showcase the economic potential of the Brahmaputra river, which has access to the Chittagong port of Bangladesh and Bhutan too evincing interest in utilising the waterway.
Speaking to journalists onboard the inaugural run of Ro-Ro boat MV Gopinath Bordoloi ahead of the festival, Transport Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary said, �So far, only the devastating side of the Brahmaputra had been publicised. Not many know that it has access to the Chittagong port. We want to showcase its economic potential to the world.�
The five-day-long Namami Brahmaputra, billed as the biggest river festival in the country, will be inaugurated by President Pranab Mukherjee on March 31. Programmes have been organised across 21 districts from Sadiya to Dhubri. Nobel laureate Dalai Lama, yoga guru Ramdev, Union ministers Nitin Gadkari and Mahesh Sarma, among others, are also expected to attend the festival, besides delegates from neighbouring countries.
�We want to highlight specifically the potential of the river as an economic lifeline and how it can be used to reach markets in South Asian countries through the cheapest means of transportation,� he added.
Patowary said the Government of Assam will sign an MoU with the Central Government on April 4 for dredging the river from Sadiya to Dhubri. The Ministry of External Affairs has also cleared a proposal to dredge the river on the Bangladesh side through the Asian Development Bank.
The minister said both Bangladesh and Bhutan, among others, have shown keen interest for developing the Brahmaputra waterway for increased trade within the northeastern region of India as well as the other South Asian countries.
He said all the eighteen barges which were lying in Kolkata are being brought back to the State. All the jetties along the Brahmaputra river will be reconstructed in a modern way, he said, adding the Central Government is funding the entire project.
He said the Central Government has already declared 11 water routes in the State as national waterways � Brahmaputra (NW-2), Barak (NW-16), Aai (NW-6), Subansiri (NW-95), Gangadhar (NW-38), Beki (NW-18), Dihing (NW-13), Dikhow (NW-32), Puthimari (NW-82), Kopili (NW-57) and Dhansiri (NW-31).
The Jogighopa port will be rebuilt at par with international ports, while the ports at Pandu, Majuli, Dibrugarh, South Salmara and Badarpur will be given a massive facelift as part of measures to improve business viability.
�The Brahmaputra has a ready market of 25 lakh consumers. Global companies are showing interest in setting up base here and we want to tap it. Once the new industrial policy is enacted, we feel there would be an industrial revolution in this part of the country,� Patowary added.
He informed that while companies like Eveready and Patanjali have already started manufacturing in the State, an US firm has shown interest in making a security app in the State. �We have shown them two plots � one in North Guwahati and another in Goalpara. They will take a final call soon,� he said.
About 20 lakh tonnes of material are transported through the Brahmaputra per year at present, with the potential and demand running into hundreds of lakh tonnes. Around 54 lakh people are directly or indirectly dependent on the inland water services.
The Brahmaputra, which is national waterway No. 2, is 891 km in length. The total length of waterways in India is 14,544 km, with Assam accounting for 1,983 km.