Guwahati, Sept 17: The Assam government has taken up a Rs 90-crore scheme to make inland water transport safer for passengers after learning a lesson from the September 8 boat mishap at Nimatighat in Jorhat.
“Under this scheme, steps are being taken to convert 853 single-engine boats that ply in the Brahmaputra to marine engine boats at the expense of the state government,” chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said after flagging off five vessels under the World Bank-funded “Assam IWT Project” at Lachit Ghat here this afternoon.
Sarma informed that within this week, seven marine engines would be fitted in the ferries that ply in the Brahmaputra in Dhubri. Similarly, steps have been taken to procure marine engines for the local ferries that ply between Nimatighat and Majuli.
Of the ships flagged off, three steel catamaran vessels, namely MV Lohit will ply between Nimatighat and Kamalabari, MV Sonai from Guwahati to Kuruwa while MV Pratima (dedicated to renowned folk singer Pratima Baruah Pandey) will ply in Dhubri.
These vessels are powered with 180 HP twin engines and have advanced equipment such as control and monitoring, communication and navigation, GPS, echo sounder, wind measurement besides lifesaving and fire-fighting equipment.
Other two vessels flagged off today will be deployed to enforce the SOPs (rules and regulations) issued recently to improve ferry service and passenger safety and to monitor movement of vessels in river Brahmaputra.
“MV Lohit will leave for Nimatighat today itself and the additional two vessels already sent from Guwahati to Nimatighat are expected to reach there today. Presently, two Ro-Pax vessels are in operation between Nimatighat and Majuli and once the new vessels start plying, passenger ferry service between Jorhat and Majuli will significantly improve,” the chief minister said.
“The state government has also decided to procure five Ro-Pax vessels,” Sarma said, adding that the vessels will be pressed into service at Majuli, Dhubri and North Guwahati to ease out passenger movement.