The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is planning to take up a feasibility study on inland waterways trade possibility through the River Padma by creating a channel from Farakka itself, to reduce 400-500km distance to connect Bangladesh with India's north-eastern states.
The Cross Border Infrastructure and Connectivity Project (CBIC), which USAID proposes to take up independently, will boost faster connectivity and cost-effective cargo movement to northeast of India and Bangladesh from the current route, says Indian media.
"Currently, ships travel from Farakka link canal to Haldia on NW-1 and then to Bangladesh rivers and then move upstream Brahmaputra (NW-2) to North East and this long travel can be reduced if a link canal can be built to connect with River Padma from Bhagirathi itself from Farakka," Principal Advisor to the CBIC project Gopal Krishna told to the press recently.
"This project is still under plan stage and we are working closely with the Centre and West Bengal and the project will be taken up if there is 'no loss of water' due to the revitalized connectivity," he said.
India is often accused of low water discharge to its rivers during the dry seasons and this is a key issue during diplomatic discussions by Bangladesh.
Krishna told the members of The Bengal Chamber at Logistics Conclave that currently road transport accounts for two-thirds and the government aims to boost inland water transport as part of Gati Shakti project for a sustainable and economic mode of transport.
The Inland Waterways Authority of India with assistance from the World Bank (WB) is executing the linking of NW-1 and NW-2 through the Bangladesh-India Protocol Route (IBPR).
It has built three multimodal jetties at India's Varanasi, Sahebgunj and Haldia to facilitate cargo movement to Varanasi for northbound cargos up to Nepal.
The CBIC principal advisor Krishna said that the first, technical feasibility study will be taken up if the pre-conditions are met and may take about nine months to complete.