The World Bank is in the process of tapping into the city of Calcutta’s immense potential to emerge as a key transport and logistics hub linked to the north eastern region and neighbouring countries, as it looks to develop an integrated system with corporations running the show.
The Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor (EDFC) that will terminate in Dankuni near Calcutta and an intermodal system that connects the corridor with rail, road and waterways can transform the city, it added.
The World Bank had signed a tripartite agreement earlier this week to provide $105 million of soft loan to develop inland waterways in and around greater Calcutta on the river Hooghly. For Junaid Ahmed, Country-director of the World Bank in India, “this is just the beginning”, as he addressed an e-seminar organised by the Bengal Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
“We are beginning a programme and hopefully there will be several stages to it in the future. We will partner with the state government to convert Calcutta into a transport and logistic hub of the sub-region linking the Northeast.”
~Junaid Ahmed, Country-Director of the World Bank in India
He added, “We need to have an intermodal system where bus, rail and water interface in a very agile way — that requires a fundamentally different spatial perspective on the management of transport and logistic in greater Calcutta and Bengal — you need corporations to run the waterways and railways in order to connect the EDFC in a way that you don’t create congestion in Calcutta but it becomes a vibrant city”.
The latest World Bank project will look at augmenting the capacity and safety of the inland water transport system by rehabilitating jetties, buying new ferries with enhanced design; and installing electronic gates in 40 locations.
In the second phase, it will also psupport long-term investments for passenger movement, including in terminals and jetties; improve the design of the inland water transport vessels and encourage the private sector to invest in Ro-Ro vessels that will allow easier movement of trucks across the Hooghly river.
Ahmed vouched for a new approach in developing infrastructure and delivering services in India.
While citing examples of EDFC and Shimla Water Company, he argued that companies — which are well governed and accountable — should deliver the services and they need not be in the private sector. Instead of functioning as a municipal department, a corporation has been created in Shimla to handle all water delivery infrastructures and render services to the citizens.
A city, which had often faced scarcity of water, is now contemplating 24×7 water delivery.
Mr Ahmed voiced that public finance, which comes from taxpayers’ money, cannot alone meet the nation’s requirement. To spend 7 per cent of the gross domestic product to build infrastructure, India needs to leverage the public finance to bring more institutional finance.
“Move Indian agencies or departments to corporate structure and move public finance as leveraging finance into those companies that deliver services,” he suggested.
Ahmed prescribed that instruments like direct benefit transfer should be brought about to ensure that economically weaker sections do not get impacted but those who can afford, pay the user charge to ensure infrastructure delivery can take place in an efficient manner.