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New Farakka navigation lock almost finished

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India has almost completed the construction of a new navigation lock at the Farakka Barrage Complex to facilitate the movement of vessels on its National Waterway-1, which is crucial for maintaining river connectivity between two parts of that country through Bangladesh river systems.

Bangladesh shipping ministry officials said that they were aware of the new navigation lock being constructed, as they said, much beyond the 150 yards from the border with India and not on the main flow of the Ganges River.

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A formal consent from both sides is a prerequisite for any permanent construction within the 150 yards from the borders.

‘There will be hardly any adverse impact on Bangladesh unless they [India] withdraw additional water from the Ganges River for the operation of the new navigation lock,’ Center for Environmental and Geographic Information Services executive director Malik Fida A Khan told New Age on Saturday.

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The new navigation lock, on a canal connecting the Ganges and the main feeder canal of the Farakka Barrage, was expected to be completed by June 2021 but was delayed due to the Covid pandemic.

The navigation lock is expected to be inaugurated in October or November, according to an Indian government official.

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The existing navigation lock was constructed as part of the Farakka Barrage Project to improve navigation between the Ganges and a feeder canal as the poor navigation caused problems in the movement of vessels, according to an Inland Waterways Authority of India document.

Indian authorities saw a 14 per cent increase in vessel movement across the old Farakka lock from 238 vessels in 2018–19 to 272 vessels in 2019–20.

It takes about two hours, or more, for a vessel to move upstream or downstream using the existing lock at the Farakka while, according to an IWAI estimate, a vessel would be able to navigate the distance in only 38 minutes using the new lock.

The operating time will be 23 minutes only if the movement of a vessel is followed by the movement of another vessel in the reverse direction.

There are projections that upstream and downstream vessel movement would substantially increase through the new lock — some 7,850 vessels in 2025, 24,116 in 2035 and over 25,000 in 2045, according to the IWAI.

The new navigation lock in Murshidabad district is also expected to facilitate the movement of hilsa fish between the Hoogly–Bhagirathi river system and the upstream of the Ganges River beyond the Farakka Barrage, according to the IWAI.

The movement of popular hilsa fish in the Ganges up to Allahabad came to a halt after the construction of the old Farakka navigation lock in 1976.

The new navigation lock, to be completed at a cost of Rs 361 crore, would enable modern electro-hydraulic and remotely controlled operation of all gates of the barrage from a control room.

The new lock is also expected to save Bihar and West Bengal from flooding and generate hydropower as part of the Jal Marg Vikas Pariyojana, which includes multimodal terminals strengthening river navigation system and conservation works, according to the IWAI.

On February 6, India flagged off a river vessel to carry cargo on a pilot basis from the Patna Port in Bihar on the Ganges River in its western part to the Pandu Port on the Brahmaputra River in Assam in its north-eastern region through Bangladesh river systems.

There is a protocol, signed in 1972 between Bangladesh and India, to provide connectivity through inland waterways for trade and transit.

Bangladesh and India have a 30-year agreement signed in 1996 for sharing water of the Ganges, which flows through Bangladesh as the Padma River.

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