- The National Waterway (Lakhipur-Bhanga Stretch of the Barak River) Bill, 2013 was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on March 22, 2013 the Minister for Shipping Mr. G.K. Vasan. The Bill proposes to declare and develop the 121km long Lakhipur-Bhanga stretch of the Barak river in Assam as National Waterway 6 (NW-6).
- The Bill was referred to the Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture on the same day. The Committee submitted its report on June 26, 2013. The Bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha on August 14, 2013.
- The government had earlier introduced the National Waterway (Lakhipur-Bhanga stretch of the Barak River) Bill, 2007 in the Lok Sabha in 2007. The previous bill lapsed due to dissolution of the 14th Lok Sabha. The contents of both the bills are the same.
- The Inland Waterways Authority of India Act, 1985 established the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) for regulation and development of inland waterways as National Waterways (NWs). The government has declared following waterways as NWs: (1) Allahabad-Haldia stretch of River Ganga, (2) Dhubri-Sadiya stretch of River Brahmaputra, (3) Kottappuram-Kollam stretch of the West Coast Canal along with Udyogamandal and Champakkara canals in Kerala (4) Kakinada-Puducherry stretch along with the designated stretches of Godavari and Krishna rivers, and (5) designated stretches of East coast canal, Brahmani river and the Mahanadi delta.
- According to the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill, current infrastructure facilities for Lakhipur-Bhanga stretch of Barak River in Assam are inadequate for shipping and navigation by large mechanised vessels. Hence, the government has decided to provide adequate infrastructure along the proposed waterway through IWAI.
- The eastern limit of NW-6 shall be the Lakhipur ferry ghat in Assam, while the western limit shall be two hundred meters before the river’s bifurcation point at Bhanga. The 121-km long waterway shall be developed at an estimated cost of Rs 123.3 crores in two phases. The works shall include infrastructure facilities for shipping and navigation, channel marking, construction of terminals, transit sheds, and installation of handling equipment.
- The first phase of the project is likely to be completed by 2016-17 followed by the second phase by 2018-19. The government estimates that NW-6 shall carry 12.5 lakh tonnes of annual traffic after completion of the second phase. It also estimates that an annual recurring expenditure of Rs 3.1 crores will be required for dredging, maintenance of navigation aids and operation of terminals.
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