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World Bank inks USD 105 million project to improve waterways in West Bengal

Wednesday, 06 Jan 2021
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The government of India, the government of West Bengal and the World Bank inked USD 105 million project to improve the inland water transport infrastructure in Kolkata, West Bengal. 
The West Bengal Inland Water Transport, Logistics and Spatial Development project will facilitate passenger and freight movement across Hooghly river, undertake spatial planning to improve accessibility in the Kolkata Metropolitan Area, enhance the quality of life of its residents, and contribute to the growth of the state’s logistics sector. 
The inland waterways are now emerging as a cost-effective and an environment-friendly option for passenger and freight movement. 
The project will help improve the river transport infrastructure in the state and help economic development by connecting the hinterland with markets and job centres in Kolkata’s Metropolitan Area. 
The project will cover the five most populous districts of southern West Bengal, including its urban agglomeration -- the Kolkata Metropolitan Area (KMA) where around 30 million people live.  
The operation will allow the state to invest in Kolkata’s economic productivity by making its waterways and ferry services part of an efficient and safe urban mobility strategy. 
The project will also ensure the metropolitan area emerges as a transport and logistics hub for the sub-region, leveraging EDFC and connecting to the North-East and landlocked countries of Nepal and Bhutan. 
The state’s ferries can provide an efficient, flexible mode of public transport for both passengers and freight, saving on operating costs and travel time when compared with road journeys. 
The existing ferry system, operational for decades, caters to less than two percent of the passenger traffic and a small portion of the freight movement. 
In Phase-I, the project will enhance the capacity and improve the safety of the Inland Water Transport system, including rehabilitating the existing jetties, buying new ferries with enhanced design, and installing electronic gates in 40 locations. 
In Phase-II, it will support long-term investments for passenger movements, including in terminals and jetties; improve the design of the inland water transport vessels; ensure night navigation on the most hazardous and trafficked routes and crossing points; and encourage the private sector to invest in Ro-Ro vessels that will allow easier movement of trucks across Hooghly river. 
To better cope with increased precipitation and flooding, climate-smart engineering solutions will be applied, including modular floating designs for ferry access points at the passenger terminals. 
Moreover, the project will facilitate disable-friendly amenities, ensure women’s safety and encourage women’s employment in the IWT Department as well as with the ferry operators. 
The USD 105 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) has a maturity of 17 years, including a grace period of seven years.
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