The World Bank has committed a $105 million loan for a project to improve the inland water transport infrastructure in West Bengal, the finance ministry said.
The agreement was signed by Dr C S Mohapatra, Additional Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance on behalf of the Government of India; Shri Rajdeep Dutta, Deputy Resident Commissioner, on behalf of the Government of West Bengal; and Mr Junaid Ahmad, Country Director, India on behalf of the World Bank.
The West Bengal Inland Water Transport, Logistics and Spatial Development Project will facilitate passenger and freight movement across the Hooghly river; undertake spatial planning to improve accessibility in the Kolkata Metropolitan Area; enhance the quality of life of its residents, and contribute to the growth of the state’s logistics sector.
Dr C S Mohapatra Additional Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance stated, “The Inland waterways are now emerging as a cost-effective and an environmentally friendly option for passenger and freight movement. This project will help improve the river transport infrastructure in West Bengal and help in the economic development of the state by connecting the hinterland with markets and job centres in Kolkata’s Metropolitan Area”.
“This operation will allow the state to invest in Kolkata’s economic productivity by making its waterways and ferry services part of an efficient and safe urban mobility strategy,” said Mr Junaid Ahmad, World Bank Country Director in India.
The project will cover the five most populous districts of southern West Bengal, including its urban agglomeration — the Kolkata Metropolitan Area (KMA) where around 30 million people or one-third of West Bengal’s population live.
“Importantly, given Kolkata’s strategic location, the project is also ensuring that the metropolitan area emerges as a transport and logistics hub for the sub-region, leveraging the EDFC and connecting to the north-east and the land-locked countries of Nepal and Bhutan,” he added.
The Hooghly River, a distributary of the river Ganga, in Kolkata separates the Kolkata port from its large consumption centres, which are, its wholesale market and its vast hinterland comprising among others the entire North East of India and two landlocked neighbouring countries namely, Nepal and Bhutan.
West Bengal’s ferries can provide an efficient, flexible mode of public transport for both passengers and freight, saving on operating costs and travel time when compared with road journeys.
In the first phase, the project will enhance the capacity and improve the safety of the Inland Water Transport system; including rehabilitating existing jetties, buying new ferries with enhanced design; and installing electronic gates in 40 locations.
In the second phase, it will support long-term investments for passenger movements, including in terminals and jetties; improve the design of the inland water transport vessels; ensure night navigation on the most hazardous and trafficked routes and crossing points, and encourage the private sector to invest in Ro-Ro vessels that will allow easier movement of trucks across the Hooghly river.
The $105 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), has a maturity of 17 years, including a grace period of seven years.