The Indian government is working on a plan to set up a waterway freight corridor to connect the mainland with the northeastern states via Bangladesh at a cost of Indian rupees 50 billion, according to economictimes.indiatimes.com
The move would substantially reduce the time taken to transport goods to the eight northeastern states of India and costs.
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 up with the Brahmaputra in Assam, the report said.
"We are 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," shipping secretary Gopal Krishna told the Economic Times (ET).
Currently, highway connectivity to the Indian northeastern states is patchy and transportation of goods by road entails a high cost and takes time. According to the ministry's estimate, the waterway could help reduce the cost of transportation by about 70 per cent.
The Indian government is already developing a waterway along the Ganga river between Haldia and Allahabad (1,620 km) at a cost of Rs 45 billion. This link will also be utilised for trade between India and Bangladesh.
India and Bangladesh 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 transhipment hub, Bangladesh is now looking at India. Our own container traffic moving to Colombo has come down as transhipment is now happening at our ports," he said.
The 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.
He said that in the long term, India plans to develop two ports each on the west and east coasts as transshipment hubs.
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