River port faces uncertain future

March 25: Tardy progress of work for the revival of Dhubri port has cast serious doubts among local residents about the fate of the project.
Mounting pressure from the Dhubri International River Port Demand Committee (DIRPDC) had forced the Centre to chalk out a plan to revive the river port by March 2010.
However, the plan, as of now, remains on paper only with very little progress of works on the ground.
The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), an autonomous body under the Union ministry of shipping, road transport and highways, is undertaking various development schemes along the national waterway, which includes construction of a terminal at Dhubri.
The Brahmaputra (891km) has already been declared a national waterway from Dhubri to Sadiya.
Under an action plan to make the national waterway fully functional by March 2010, a floating terminal with open storage facility and road connectivity for movement of loaded trucks was proposed at Dhubri at an estimated cost of Rs 2.06 crore, sources said.
Moreover, the waterway authorities had already provided a floating terminal with a crane for mechanical handling of cargo at the Free India ghat at Dhubri after acquiring land from the state government.
Union minister of shipping, road transport and highways, T.R. Baalu, told Dhubri MP, Anowar Hussain that the government had granted approval for acquisition of two hectares of land at Dhubri (Free India ghat) for Rs 3.13 crore in October 2008 to set up the terminal. After the land was handed over by the state government, work on a floating terminal at Dhubri was to be taken up by the IWAI.
However, a member of DIRPDC, Tripath Nath Chakraborty, refuted the Union minister’s claim.
Chakraborty said though a part of the funds, amounting to Rs 1.51 crore, had been released for acquisition of two hectares of land at Free India Ghat in October last year, there had been no progress till date. 
Moreover, as claimed by the ministry that the national waterway would be fully functional by March 2010 and road connectivity for movement of loaded trucks completed at Dhubri at a cost of Rs 2.06 crore, nothing has been done, he alleged.
Baalu had also claimed that regular cargo movement by a large fleet was already taking place at Dhubri.
The inland water transport (IWT) department, Assam, has been transporting cargo on a commercial basis through these small craft. Private operators are also operating. Under the protocol on inland water transit and trade between India and Bangladesh, Numaligarh Refinery Ltd has been sending diesel through this waterway. All the vessels to and from Haldia on the national waterway pass through Dhubri. 
The Union minister has asked the industries, trade and commerce associations at Dhubri to opt for the inland water transport mode for successful implementation of the project.