The World Bank-aided Jal Marg Vikash project to ensure 24×7 river transportation from Varanasi to Kolkata by the Ganga may come to the aid of another World Bank-aided project of the Dedicated Freight Corridor in the east. The rail corridor project is said to be moving at a snail’s pace.
Addressing a media conference Kolkata, Pravir Pandey, Vice-Chairman of Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), said that there were concerns on progress of the rail freight corridor project (that starts from Ludhiana in Punjab) beyond Mughalsarai in UP, due to land acquisition concerns. Similar concerns were rife on connecting the Dankuni terminal in West Bengal to Haldia port, where IWAI is building a terminal. “There are some thoughts, that if the rail cargo from dedicated freight corridor can be trans-shipped by the river at Varanasi,” Pandey told media persons.
To bridge the connectivity gap between Haldia and Dalkuni, IWAI is planning trans-shipment operations at Tribeni in West Bengal. To avoid land acquisition tangle, IWAI may go for a floating jetty at Tribeni. The facility will help the movement of containers arriving at Haldia port by sea.
To facilitate the transit of Nepalese cargo arriving in Kolkata or Haldia port, IWAI has decided to go for a multi-modal PPP project with loans from International Finance Corporation (IFC).
IWAI will participate in the project by providing a jetty facility at Garden Reach in Kolkata and Kalughat, near Patna, in Bihar. From Kalughat, goods can reach Birgunj – the largest trading point of Nepal with India – by truck, covering a distance of nearly 200 km.
The private partner will invest in cargo handling and warehousing facilities and promote the trade. They will also fix the tariff for end-to-end transportation of goods from Haldia to Kalughat.
“We have already floated a tender to pick up a private partner for the project. As per initial assessments, the cost of multi-modal transportation will be 13 per cent cheaper than the rail movement from Haldia to Birgunj. The turnaround time is estimated to be 21 days,” Pandey said.
According to the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations, the prevailing turnaround time from Kolkata to Birgunj by road is 19 days, whereas the “ideal” time should just be seven days. By rail, the turnaround is even longer – 26 days, of which the actual transit time is only four days and the remaining time is spent waiting at Kolkata port or at Birgunj.
Meanwhile, IWAI has received six bids for construction of the Haldia terminals. Major construction companies including Reliance and L&T have participated in the tender. IWAI expects to award the tender next month.
IWAI has already finalised plans to set up three terminals at Varanasi, Sahebgunj (Jharkhand) and Haldia. The contract is awarded on Varanasi terminal. The rest two will be awarded next month.