Being well versed of how the inland water transport proposal was started, I would like to submit that there have been misrepresentation of the facts as nowhere in the final project report it is advised by the M/S Rites that silt deposition in the water channel would hinder its smooth running even if the channel is dredged. Nor it was said the project was not economically viable.
These misrepresentation of the facts has deferred the prize project for over a decade and has resulted into a loss of the benefits which would accrue there from. In fact I have been the Project Director of the Inland Water Transport in the SDA. Lets bear in mind the following points.
1. The total quantum of capital dredging for Pampore to Chattabal stretches are of the order of 32300 cum. The capital dredging of the study stretch has to be completed within one year. The annual maintenance dredging of the study reach is 3230 cum.
2. It was observed that the project is economically and financially viable with a return exceeding than PLR under all the three phases of investment when the entire costs are met by the Govt. and flotilla services are also operated by them.
3. Srinagar is presently totally dependent on a single mode of surface transport, viz, road, which has a negative environment impact. IWT on the other hand, is an environment friendly mode and has linkages. Developing and operating water based passenger transport would ensure that the passengers get relief by way of smooth travel in the vessels devoid of over-crowding which is a common phenomenon in road traffic during the peak hours.
Further the bypasses which decongest the roads temporarily at present may not be fully effective over a period of next five to ten years as the township extends along such bypasses in due course. Viewed from this perspective also, IWT offers a better package for decongestion, both of roads as well as for vehicle movement on the roads.
4. With decongestion of traffic, parking in the busy city areas would cease.
5. Further the proposed water transport services would help in augmenting tourism. Most of the city's historical/ religious and heritage buildings/sites are situated on the either side of the river Jhelum. Thus there is no doubt the IWT would in the ultimate analysis, boost the socio economic development.
6. The introduction of IWT would entail indirect benefits to the surrounding areas by way of reduction of soil erosion, level of siltation, seepage of water by providing permanent embankments all along the stretch. This would also prevent water stagnation in the river reducing health hazards.
7. It may be pointed out that the project under study is a part of bigger stretch from Anantnag to Wular Lake (116 K ms.) Once the entire stretch is operational, the economics of the present proposal will undergo a change for the better.
8. Therefore the consultants said that the project is recommended for execution. Phase- wise implementation could be considered in the perspective of developing a viable infrastructure project which provides financial and economic benefits to the local economy through its linkages. But then who cares about this ignored City?
Er Mohammad Ashraf Fazili
Chief Engineer (Retd.)
(The ideas expressed are author's own)