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US JV to study water transport on Ganga

In a bid to push passenger transport on National Waterway-I between Allahabad and Haldia, the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) has inked a contract with the US-based joint venture, Thompson Design Group and Infrastructure Architecture Lab of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), to identify suitable locations for construction of 18 ferry terminals across six cities.

The contract also entails preparation of detailed project reports for these 18 terminals that would be built across Allahabad, Varanasi, Patna, Munger, Kolkata and Haldia.

The contract, worth Rs 5 crore, was awarded to the US-based joint venture (JV) following a global tendering process and it was inked on December 21. The US firms will have to deliver detailed project reports, and technical and financial feasibility reports by mid-2018, sources from IWAI said.

According to an IWAI release, the US-based JV has earlier worked on similar transport solutions for Governors Island, off New York harbour, and Navy Pier in Chicago.

As part of the detailed project report and feasibility reports, the JV has to map the traffic potential across these cities for both passenger and commercial vessels.

The Union Ministry of Shipping wants to revive and expand inland waterways, touting it as a cheaper mode of commercial transport and one with untapped potential for passenger transport, too.

The revival of National Waterway (NW)-1 on Ganga is being implemented by the IWAI as part of the Jal Vikas Marg Project with World Bank assistance, both technical and financial, pegged at Rs 5369 crore. While the NW-I witnesses limited commercial traffic at present, environmental concerns have been raised by local communities of fishermen and environment groups regarding the expansion of traffic.

The chief concerns are centred around the shrinking flow of River Ganga, potential dredging to be maintained for minimum navigable depth and the threat that increased ship movement will pose to gharials, mugger crocodiles, turtles and India’s national aquatic animal — Gangetic Dolphins.

Routes on the NW-I will pass through the Varanasi Turtle Sanctuary, besides critical stretches for dolphins in Fatehpur, Malda and Sagar.