DIBRUGARH: Union minister of ports, shipping and waterways and AYUSH – Sarbananda Sonowal, on Tuesday, said that robust business relations with neighbouring countries can be achieved through optimal and holistic development of waterways ecosystem.

He was speaking at the inaugural session of the Waterways Conclave 2022, a two-day event organised by the ministry of ports, shipping and waterways and the inland waterways authority of India (IWAI) along with the federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and ICC as the industry partners and PwC as the knowledge partner.

“Within a radius of 2000 kilometres, we have all big cities with a combined population of 800 million,” union minister Sarbananda Sonowal said.

He added: “Waterways could provide the greatest opportunities for our young entrepreneurs.”

Also read: Assam: Six MoUs signed on second day of waterways conclave held in Dibrugarh

Sonowal further invited industries to proactively partner with the government in the waterways sector.

In his address, Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that the state is implementing Rs 770 crores Assam Inland Water Transport project to provide safe and convenient ferry services to passengers.

Talking about the importance of the waterways ecosystem in the northeast, Sarma said that the Brahmaputra basin possesses nearly 30% of India’s water resource potential and cargo movement through waterways would significantly reduce dependence on cargo transportation for roadways.

“Regular movement of cargo through waterways would create job opportunities and open international market for local products through cost-effective transport,” he said.

Also read: Assamese will always get first priority: Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma on ‘imposition’ of Hindi

Alluding to the importance of achieving logistics efficiency and, in turn, the waterways sector, Nitin Gadkari, union minister of road transport and highways, in his virtual address, said that the logistics cost is 8 to 10% (of the cost of goods) in China, 10-12% in the European countries and around 12% in USA and 16% in India.

The minister averred that waterways are the most cost-effective medium of transport compared to road and railways, “as far as the logistic cost is concerned, the logistics efficiencies the waterways is the ultimate mission for all of us”.

G Kishan Reddy, minister of development of north eastern region (DoNER) in his virtual address, said that waterways would be significantly helpful in realising the potential of abundant natural resources in the Northeast.

Rameshwar Teli, union minister of state for petroleum and natural gas said that 111 waterways had been declared national waterways.

He added that waterways in the Northeast would be an alternative to the Siliguri region, commonly referred to as the chicken neck of the country.

Avik Chakraborty

Avik Chakraborty is Northeast Now Correspondent in Dibrugarh. He can be reached at: babs8oct@gmail.com