The Government of India, Government of Assam and the World Bank recently signed a loan agreement of $88 million to help modernise Assam’s passenger ferry sector that runs on its rivers, including the mighty Brahmaputra.
The Assam Inland Water Transport Project (AIWTP) will help in improving passenger ferry infrastructure and services and strengthening the capacity of the institutions running inland water transport.
According to Sameer Kumar Khare, Additional Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Rivers are a vital transport asset for people in Assam. AIWTP will help develop a modern, efficient and safe river transport system for the large volume of passengers and cargo carried by the vessels.
The loan agreement was signed by Khare on behalf of the Government of India and Junaid Kamal Ahmad, Country Director (India), World Bank, on behalf of the World Bank; the Project Agreement was signed by Adil Rashid, Commissioner (Assam Transport) and State Project Director on behalf of the Assam Government and Ahmad on behalf of the World Bank.
“Assam has the largest network of navigable waterways in India,” said Ahmad. “The state government has taken on the challenge of modernising the ferries sector which, though vital to the state, remains largely informal.” He further said that with World Bank support, the government is creating an institutional framework that will mainstream inland waterways as a mode of transport that is both attractive and well-suited to a wide cross-section of people living in the Brahmaputra Valley of the state.
The project will support the Assam Government’s efforts to corporatise its own ferry activities. The Assam Shipping Company (ASC) will operate the government ferries and the Assam Ports Company (APC) will provide terminals and terminal services on a common-user basis to both public and private ferry operators.
The project will also help build modern ferry terminals. In doing so, it will draw guidance from ‘working with nature’ principles that aim to design new infrastructure or rehabilitate existing infrastructure in a way that works with natural river processes.The terminals will have better access, lighting and signage while the new vessels will allow for individual seats and separate toilets.
The loan of $88 million from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) has a final maturity of 14.5 years, including a grace period of five years.