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Featured Image: Nitin Gadkari (third from left), along with other dignitaries at MCC Chamber of Commerce & Industry event in Kolkata on Tuesday. 

By Bappaditya Paul

Kolkata, 01 December: WORK on the proposed national waterway project from Haldia to Varanasi will start by February next year, Union shipping, road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari said today.

“The first phase work for the 1,620 km long waterway was to begin in December but it got delayed due to some issues. The work will now surely start in next two-three months,” the minister said speaking at a session organised by MCC Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the Oberoi Grand here this afternoon.

Gadkari said that as part of the project, 30 water ports will be developed between Haldia and Varanasi, and there will be three major hubs at Haldia, Sahebganj (Jharkhand) and Varanasi.

“We have tied up with an international expert agency for an early and effective implementation of the project. On completion, the waterway will offer a major boost to both goods and public transportation as the cost of water transport is much less as compared to road and rail,” the minister said.

He said that at present, water transportation in India is only 3-5 per cent of the total transportation. “Whereas, we have a 13,000 km riverine routes spread over 14 states. That’s why we are now focusing on developing waterways and the allied infrastructure.”

The Union minister also informed that a new dredging technology will be shortly introduced at the Kolkata Port in collaboration with the IIT Chennai and this will cut down the annual cost of dredging by about Rs 1,50 crore.\

“Right now, Kolkata Port spends around Rs 450 per annum in dredging. The new technology will bring it down by anything between Rs 150-200 crore. The technology will be put in place in next one month,” he said.

Meanwhile, asked to comment on the recent arrests of three ISI suspects in Kolkata who had been associated with the Trinamool Congress in the past, Gadkari said that it was unfortunate that appeasement of terrorists was taking place due to vote bank.

“National security is not a question of politics and it should never be politicised. But unfortunately, the situation in the country is such that for vote-bank, appeasement of terrorists and terror organisations also happens,” Gadkari said on the side line of another event in the city this morning.