Agartala: The central government has undertaken 17 waterway projects to improve links between north-east India and the adjoining countries, union minister Jitendra Singh said here on Saturday.

The proposed waterways are in addition to railway, air and road links being developed in the eight north-eastern states, said Jitendra Singh, who is Minister of State for Development of the North-eastern Region (DoNER).

“As part of the BJP-led central government’s Act East policy, development of connectivities in all spheres in the north-east are priority areas,” Singh told reporters.

He said: “Over a hundred waterways are being developed across the country and 17 such projects planned for the north-eastern region. Multi-modal connectivity in the region has been undertaken on a priority basis to boost trade and to increase the movement of people.”

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“While waterways are recognised as a fuel efficient, cost effective and environment friendly mode of transport, it has received lesser investment as compared to roads and railways.”

Parliament earlier this month passed the National Waterways Bill, 2015, seeking to add 106 inland waterways to the existing six National Waterways on the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture.

Jitendra Singh, who came here on Saturday met Chief Minister Manik Sarkar and addressed a BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) booth level workers meet, said one or two of the 17 waterway projects would link the Bay of Bengal with the mighty Brahmaputra in Assam.

Jitendra Singh said his ministry has thought about developing a dedicated airline that would operate flights within the region and also connect it with the rest of the country.

“Though there is no specific development about the proposed aviation scheme, my efforts were on in this regard. An inter-ministerial committee between the DoNER and civil aviation ministries was formed to study the issue.”

He said: “Railway ministry has been working round the clock to extend the railway network in all areas of the northeast. The DoNER ministry would be funding the Agartala-Akhaura (Bangladesh) railway project to connect north-east with the Bangladesh railway network.”

The minister said the Road Transport and Highways Ministry had formed the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd with a corpus fund of Rs 150 crore to develop roads in the region.

He said currently 17 km of roads were being built every day, which would increase to 30 km per day.

“Earlier the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government only looked at the north-east under the Look East policy, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi turned it into Act East policy to do work for the development of the region.”

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