The city’s passenger ferry system across the Hooghly is set to undergo a magical metamorphosis, with the state government issuing work orders for 10 vessels — some of them can carry 100 passengers and some others 200 passengers — along with two high speed passenger vessels and 22 mechanised boats. The new vessels will replace the existing rickety and highly polluting ones that put thousands of passengers at risk.
This is the first move towards the implementation of a $105.35 million (Rs 714.7crore) inland water transport infrastructure augmentation project signed between Bengal and the World Bank last month. According to the World Bank report, the existing ferry system caters to less than 2% of passenger traffic and a small portion of the freight movement.
The work order worth Rs 54 crore will change the way people are being ferried across the Hooghly. The vessels will be modern, fuel-efficient and greener. That there will be an improvement in the design of the vessels will ensure night navigation on the most hazardous and congested routes, slashing some loads on the roads, said an official of the transport department.
Two high speed vessels that can carry 100 passengers each will be used for longitudinal journeys like the one from Kolkata to Mayapur or from Kolkata to Chandernagore. These vessels will be used as water-taxi for both passenger transportation and tourism. There will be 22 smaller vessels with all safety features, which can ferry both passengers and freight along the Hooghly.
In the production of these vessels, there are reversible environmental and social (E & S) impacts. Further, during the operation of these vessels, environmental issues such as air pollution from the diesel-run engines, noise pollution caused by the engines and sewage / sullage generation and disposal from the in-vessel toilets should be taken into consideration. Other issues, including passenger safety and accessibility to disabled persons for entering these vessels during high and low tide should also be taken into consideration, said an official.