India Forward: Ro-Ro service to Majuli Island in Assam

Majuli means ‘the land between two parallel rivers’. Once the Siang River enters Assam, it is called the Brahmaputra and it becomes a braided and a mighty furious river. This has created the flood plain of the Brahmaputra Valley. As the Brahmaputra flows, its furious speed cuts through land mass and that’s how picturesque Majuli Islands were formed. The Brahmaputra Valley in Assam is approximately 80 to 100 km wide and almost 1000 km long. At some places the width of the river itself is 16 km. This makes access to Majuli , a River island, all the more difficult. With 150 villages and an approximate population of 1,50,000 people, getting this area mainstreamed and easily connected remained a challenge till date.

As can be seen from the above image, the connectivity from the South of Assam to the North of Assam has to be done either via air, road or ferries. Currently, there are only four road bridges across river Brahmaputra located at Jogighopa, Guwahati, Tezpur and Sadiya for connectivity between southern and northern parts of Assam. This obviously entails that trucks have to travel longer distances to make it across the river.

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Meanwhile the people living either on the south or the north side have access to ferries to cross the river. However, those ferries cannot carry goods and machines and the same has to be done only via rail or road by taking a circumtuous route. This obviously increases cost and time.

To resolve all these problems for Majuli Island, Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) will be starting a new Roll on-Roll off (Ro-Ro) facility. A Ro-Ro ship is designed in such a way that a truck or a trailer with goods can directly drive onto the ship and then once the ship sails to its destination, the vehicle can roll off or drive out of the ship onto the land.

The Ro-Ro facility for Majuli Island limits the total distance a truck travels to only 12.7 kms. In absence of this, the trucks were forced to travel 423 kms to cover the same distance. It will lead to huge savings on fuel costs and time for the transporters and the benefits will be passed onto the consumers via price reductions.

Government has procured a new vessel named MV Bhupen Hazarika for a cost of Rs 9.46 Crore for RoRo Service and built docking terminal too. The Ship is 46.5-metre-long, 13.3-metre-wide with capacity of 8 trucks and 100 passengers at one time. More such services will be needed to effectively connect the Upper Assam and Arunachal regions with the other North East states.

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