West Bengal today sought participation of boat manufacturers from different states in its bid to replace or upgrade nearly 15,000 semi-mechanised ferries plying in the state’s waterways. “The state government wants participation of manufacturers from different states in this huge project wherein semi-mechanised ferries will be replaced by new ones or upgraded to mechanised boats with specific safety features,” West Bengal Transport minister Suvendu Adhikari said. He said that around 15,000 semi-mechanised boats ply in different rivers and other waterways, of which a large percentage are in the riverine Sunderbans area.
“The government has launched the ‘Jaladhara’ project to ensure sustainable ferry transport system and will provide boat operators a financial assistance of upto Rs one lakh,” Adhikari said at a symposium organised for the purpose where medium and large scale manufacturers from Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Kerala and Maharashtra participated.
Stating that there were not enough manufacturers in West Bengal, the minister invited these companies to set up base in West Bengal and said required infrastructure would be provided to them. He said that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had directed a total overhaul of the river transport system in the state following incidents of accidents in 2016 and 2017. Several persons had died when a boat capsized at Kalna in Burdwan district in May, 2016, while a jetty collapse at Telinipara in Hooghly district in April this year also claimed a number of lives. Adhikari said standard operating procedures have been fixed for around 300 jetties in different parts of the state so that these conform to safety requirements.
State Transport secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay said that as per the project, robust and safe boats have to be constructed with specific designs and made of steel, fibre or wood. These boats will have seating capacity ranging from 20 to 60 people, he said.