India is working on a plan to set up a waterway freight corridor to connect its mainland with the northeastern (NE) states via Bangladesh involving Rs 5,000 crore, says an Indian government official.
The move would substantially reduce the time taken to transport goods to the eight northeastern states and costs, reports The Economic Times from New Delhi on Monday.
The proposed 900-km waterway would be used to transport freight from the northern and eastern states to the northeast and would start near Haldia in West Bengal, go to the Sundarbans, merge into the Padma River in Bangladesh and then join the Brahmaputra in Assam.
“We’re working on the details of the project. It would substantially improve connectivity between the mainland states and northeast. The cost of freight transportation would come down substantially,” the daily quoted Indian shipping secretary Gopal Krishna as saying.
Currently, highway connectivity to the northeastern states is patchy and transportation of goods by road entails a high cost and takes time.
According to the Indian ministry’s estimate, the waterway could help reduce the cost of transportation by about 70 percent.
The Indian government is already developing a waterway along the Ganga River between Haldia and Allahabad (1,620 km) at a cost of Rs 4,500 crore. This link will also be utilised for trade between India and Bangladesh.
Bangladesh and India share a 4,095-km border, of which 1,116 km is along rivers. Krishna said Bangladesh plans to use Indian ports as transshipment hubs.
“Instead of using Colombo or Singapore as a transshipment hub, Bangladesh is now looking at India. Our own container traffic moving to Colombo has come down as transshipment is now happening at our ports,” said Gopal Krishna.
The Indian shipping ministry recently allowed foreign vessel operators to transport containerised cargo meant for import or export within ports located in Indian territory to ensure cargo doesn’t land up in foreign hubs such as Singapore and Colombo.
In the long term, Gopal Krishna said, India plans to develop two ports each on the west and east coasts as transshipment hubs.