New Delhi: A Parliamentary Committee has vehemently criticized the Ministry of Ports Shipping and Waterways (MoPSW) for its failure to complete the construction work for the much-needed ship repair facility at Pandu in Guwahati on time.
The announcement of the ship repair project at Pandu was made in August 2021 and the construction was to commence in May 2022 to be completed by 2024. However, the ministry has extended the deadline to complete the project by 2025.
The ship repair facility at Pandu will enable the repair of inland vessels with dry docking in the North-Eastern Region (NER) itself instead of having to go to Kolkata, which will result in less cost and shorter repair time.
Noting that some delay is understandably due to the Covid pandemic, the Parliamentary Committee on Transport Tourism and Culture has said that as proposals for the construction of a ship repair facilities at Guwahati were under consideration for many years before the finalization of this project, the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) should take every measure to ensure that the project is completed as per schedule.
The committee noted that the ship repair facility at Pandu Port has completed only 2. The river Brahmaputra, having a length of 891 km between the Bangladesh Border and Sadiya (Assam), was declared NW-2 in 1988. NW-2 provides alternate connectivity to NER through 1,700 km Indo-Bangladesh protocol routes.
The committee chaired by Rajya Sabha MP V Vijayasai Reddy has been informed that the proposal for the development of NW-2 in Assam has been approved at a revised Standing Finance Committee (SFC) cost of Rs 474.00 crore during 2020-21 to 2024-25.
The committee notes that presently 80 MTPA cargo moves into and within the North Eastern Region and is handled by either rail or road. The landlocked NER is connected with the mainland by only the narrow 22-km-long Siliguri corridor which along with the challenging geography and topography of the region creates road and rail congestion and hampers connectivity of the northeastern states.
“Development of NW-2 as a Multi-Modal Terminal, is therefore, important to augment the logistics infrastructure of the North-Eastern Region, hitherto largely dependent on rail and road,” the committee said in its latest report.
It has been noted that Jogighopa in Assam, due to its geographical location, holds immense potential to serve the hinterlands of Upper Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, and Nagaland. The committee appreciates the initiative of IWAI and the Ministry as the proposed Jogighopa terminal proposal would prove to be a game changer for the entire North Eastern Region as well as the neighbouring countries of Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh.
The committee also noted that an alternative road to Pandu port had been proposed since 2011 at a then-estimated cost of Rs 12.32 crores but due to various reasons, could not be constructed.
“CAG in its earlier report had commented adversely that due to the lack of this alternate road, the available infrastructure at Pandu port was lying largely unutilised. The committee observes that the proposal has been deferred for nearly more than a decade despite CAG observations, and the alternate road is now proposed to be built at a cost of Rs 186 crores by 2026,” the committee said in its report.
The committee feels that this indicates apathy on the part of the Ministry and IWAI that an important infrastructure project which would have benefitted the region should have been allowed to be delayed for such a long time and recommends that the IWAI may ensure that there is no further delay in this project.