NEW DELHI : Union Finance Minister Smt Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday said India needs to tap the potential of historic riverine systems with Nepal and Bengladesh to accelerate logistic movement to expedite its growth story.
Speaking at the NADI 3 Asian Confluence River Conclave 2022 in Guwahati here, she said Chittagong port in Bangladesh will open up immense possibilities to boost northeast’s connection with mainland India.
“Between India and Nepal alone there are around 6,000 such riverine systems which connect the two through rivers and these riverine systems are the ones which infused so much water in the entire basin. And so do between India and Bangladesh, 50 riverine systems, beautifully woven with one another and therefore we have every reason to focus on looking at waterways as one of the very important infrastructure for better logistics,” she said.
Sitharaman said the inland waterways suffered for want of attention till the Narendra Modi Government came to power.
“The government of India is fully committed to our Neighbourhood First Policy as much as developing the northeast as the Gateway to the entire Southeast Asian nations,” she asserted.
Not just in the northeast, but she said connectivity with the entire Southeast Asian nations can be built and developed culturally in terms of the civilisation… riverine civilisation. “We have so much in common and we have also to leverage it so that people to people contact gets built up,” Sitharaman added.
The Union finance minister underlined the Centre’s projects to enhance the connectivity in northeast India and with its neighbouring countries. She said the Centre is implementing the rail, road and air connectivity projects worth Rs 1,34,200 crore in the northeast with utmost priority. She drew attention to the 15 ongoing air connectivity projects in the northeast at a cost over Rs 2,200 crore.
“The Centre is also developing 4,000 km of road projects in the region at a total cost of Rs 58,000 crore,” she said, putting development of national waterway 2 on Brahmaputra and national waterway 16 on river Barak in the priority list.
Also, Sitharaman said the 20 railway projects costing over Rs 74,000 crore for 2,011 km length falling in the northeast is another major boost that the northeast is getting.
Chief Minister Shri Himanta Sharma shared the vision of the state government of developing Assam as a river cruise hub in Asia. “We’ve made our best efforts to give tangible shape to our connectivity with Bangladesh and ASEAN nations through road, rail and air,” Sarma said.
He also thanked Sitharaman for her gracious presence at the valedictory session of the conclave for promoting sub-regional cooperation in the BBIN, ASEAN and BIMSTEC regions.
The valedictory session on Sunday was attended by Minister of State for Education and External Affairs, Government of India, RK Ranjan and State Minister of Planning, Government of Bangladesh, Prof Shamsul Alam among others.