The National Waterway (Lakhipur Bhanga stretch of the Barak River) Bill, 2013 was introduced in the Rajya Sabha today by the Union Minister for Shipping Shri G.K. Vasan. The bill proposes to declare the navigable stretch of the Barak River between Lakhipur and Bhanga (121 km) in Southern Assam as a National Waterway. The bill also provides for the regulation and development of the proposed waterway by the Union government for the purpose of shipping and navigation through the Inland Waterway Authority of India. It also envisages the development of infrastructure projects at an estimated cost of 123 crore rupees in two phases. The first phase of the project will be completed by 2016-17 followed by the second phase which is likely to be completed by 2018-19.
Infrastructure facilities currently available on this stretch of the river are inadequate for safe, convenient and sustained shipping and navigation by large mechanised craft. The enactment of this bill will lead to improved connectivity and transportation of cargo in the north eastern region particularly the states of Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh. It will also provide an alternative connectivity to these states which are presently dependent on the rail/road connectivity through the chicken™s neck at Siliguri.
The Government has accorded high priority to the development of inland water transport in the country as it provides a low cost, energy-efficient and environment friendly medium of transport. So far, five waterways have been declared as National waterways. These are: 1) Allahabad- Haldia stretch of the River Ganga, 2) Dhubri Sadiya stretch of River Brahmaputra, 3) Kottappuram Kollam stretch in the west coast canal along with Udyogamandal and Champakkara canal, in Kerala 4) Kakinada Puducherry stretch along with the designated stretches of Godavari and Krishna rivers, and 5) Designated stretches of East coast canal, Brahmani river and the Mahanadi delta.