Rajya Sabha on Wednesday passed a bill to declare the 121-km stretch of Barak river in Assam as National Waterway, a move aimed at unified development of waterways for shipping, navigation and transportation of cargo to the north-eastern region.

The National Waterway (Lakhipur-Bhanga Stretch of the Barak River) Bill, 2013 to develop the Barak river stretch as country’s sixth National Waterway would particularly benefit Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh by facilitating cargo movement there.

Shipping Minister G.K. Vasan, who moved the Bill for passage said the project will entail an investment of Rs. 123 crore and would be completed in two phases in five years.

“The waterway has the potential to transport 12.45 lakh tonne of cargo like tea, coffee, iron, steel and coal per annum after its development by 2018-19,” Mr. Vasan said adding, it will not only augment infrastructure there but would benefit lakhs of people.

The first phase of the project would be completed by 2016-17 followed by the second phase which is likely to be completed by 2018-19.

Replying to members queries, he said the country has already five National Waterways covering a length of 4,382 km of which infrastructure has been developed for initial three while the process is on for the remaining two.

“Infrastructure facilities currently available on this waterway are not adequate for safe, convenient and sustained shipping and navigation by large mechanised craft,” the statement of objects and reasons of the Bill said.

It said the regulation and development of the proposed waterway “is in the public interest” and would provide “safe, convenient and sustained shipping.”

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