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Jal Marg Vikas Project gets a push from Yogi Adityanath ahead of the 2019 polls

Atul Chandra | Updated on: 4 June 2017, 16:17 IST

Work on the Varanasi stretch of the big-ticket Jal Marg Vikas Project of the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) got a push after its officials met Chief Minister Adityanath Yogi in Varanasi recently.

The problem being faced by the IWAI in acquiring land for the project was discussed at the recent meeting with CM who, according to the spokesperson, asked the chief secretary to resolve the issue at the earliest.

IWAI officials, at the meeting, explained to Adityanath that 32 hectares of land was needed to set up the port and multi-modal terminals for rail and road linkages in Varanasi.

The IWAI had approached the Akhilesh Yadav government in 2015 but gotten a lukewarm response. As the Samajwadi Party government did not help in land acquisition, the project got delayed.

The IWAI spokesperson said that they now have 16 hectares of land and it is on this that the work has already begun.

Adityanath directed the chief secretary to expedite the process to acquire the remaining land and also promised another 100 acres for the construction of a freight village in the vicinity of the port. The acquisition of this land also will be fast-tracked.

The freight village is estimated to cost Rs 1,000 crore and was being accorded top priority by the state government.

The project, which will link the prime minister’s constituency with Haldia, is expected to be complete by next year, much before the 2019 Parliamentary elections.

The Rs 5,369-crore project on the Ganga, aims at developing a fairway to enable commercial navigation of at least 2,000-tonne vessels on the river between Allahabad and Haldia, named National Waterways 1. The 1,620-km Varanasi-Haldia stretch is being taken up in the first phase of the World Bank-aided project.

Developing this stretch as freight corridor was being given high priority so as to reduce the pressure on roads and railways. “It will also be a cheaper alternative compared to the other two,” said an IWAI spokesperson.

There is also a plan to ferry passengers between Varanasi and Patna. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has been given the contract for a feasibility study of 18 ports. The MIT has started data collection work. The passenger movement plan will be introduced at a later stage.

The multi-modal terminal at Varanasi is coming up at Ralhupur, opposite Assi Ghat, on the Ramnagar side, which is the industrial hub of the pilgrim city. In Bihar, the port will come up at Sahibganj.

One of the problems faced by the IWAI was the two-three metre depth of the Ganga especially at some places between Varanasi and Bihar. The vessels of that tonnage, according to the spokesperson, were easier to ply in waters at least four to five metres deep.

The low depth of the river is due to siltation and has bogged the project down since 1990. To overcome the problem IWAI has taken the help of Germany’s DST to build special ‘flat-bottomed’ vehicles which, according to IWAI, “The specially designed vessels will navigate on low drafts, will be of high carrying capacity and will be environment-friendly”.

The project ran into an environmental hurdle over a seven-kilometre route in Varanasi. That area, being a turtle sanctuary, fell under the wildlife protection zone under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. The environment ministry subsequently gave its clearance to the project.

With the prime minister’s monitoring group keeping an eye on the progress on a day-to-day basis, the project was expected to meet the deadline to equip the PM with more firepower before the 2019 polls.

First published: 2 June 2017, 17:34 IST