One of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's pet projects, 1620 km waterways navigation from Haldia in West Bengal to Varanasi, got a kick-start on Thursday with the World Bank releasing Rs 300 crore for the initial work.
The World Bank would finance 50% of the total estimated cost of the project- Rs 4200 crore -- and also provide technical assistance in executing the assignment.
The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), the implementing body of the project, would utilise this initial amount in preparing project reports.
The IWAI has already invited global tenders from international consultants for preparing project reports. Notices for tenders have been posted at the IWAI and World Bank's website.
Keeping into account project's cost and technicalities, the IWAI has decided to prepare three reports, one each for engineering aspect, environment and social impact assessment and market and business development.
The consultants have to submit the reports in the next eight months between May-June 2015 to the IWAI that in turn would be presented before the World Bank officials for the release of remaining part of the fund.
If all goes according to plan, the IWAI would issue first tender in September-October next year.
Jose Luis Irigoyen, director, World Bank, transport, water and information and communication technology who was in Varanasi on Thursday reviewed the project and presided over a meeting with IWAI officials.
Project director Jal Vikas Marg (Haldia-Varanasi waterways) Praveen Pandey was also present on the occasion.
As the World Bank is also funding dedicated freight corridor project of the Indian Railways, it is trying to develop the Haldia-Varanasi waterways project as multi-model hub.
"We want to integrate both the projects so that they could be made compatible in the larger interest of India's economy," said Irigoyen.