Cabinet Nod to Plan to Convert 101 Rivers Into Waterways

New Delhi

In a bid to boost transportation for goods and passengers through waterways, the government today gave nod to plans for enactment of a legislation for converting 101 river stretches across the country into National Waterways.

India at present has only five river stretches declared a as National Waterways.

"The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, today gave its approval for enactment of Central legislation for declaring 101 additional Inland Waterways as National Waterways (NW) for navigation," an official statement said.

This will create a logistic supply chain with intermodal (Rail, Road and Waterways) connectivity and "would positively contribute to the GDP by opening up business opportunities in the area of dredging, barge construction, barge operation, barge repair facilities, terminal construction...Tourist cruise" among others, the statement said.

Investment in all these business areas will create numerous opportunities for employment and economic development and reduce pressure from the already over-loaded, congested and costlier other surface modes of transport, it said.

Detailed business development studies are being carried out under the Jal Marg Vikas Project for identifying all business opportunities and quantifying anticipated investments and employment opportunities, it added.

The government said Inland Water Transport (IWT) which is recognised globally as a cost-efficient way of transportation will result in huge cost savings in comparison to rail and road transport besides being environment-friendly.

It said in view of the large network of inland waterways in India, there is vast potential in IWT to act as an alternate and supplementary mode of transportation.

"However, so far, in the last 30 years, only ... Five waterways have been declared as National Waterways," it said.

Five of the river-stretches, which have been declared as National Waterways, include Allahabad-Haldia on Ganga (1,620 km), Brahmaputra's Dhubri-Sadiya (891 km), West Coast Canal Kottapuram-Kollam (205 km); Kakinada-Puducherry canals (1,078 km) and East Coast Canal integrated with Brahmani river and Mahanadi delta rivers (588 km).

The government said due to very little investment made so far on development of this mode compared globally and to the road and rail modes in the country, IWT mode remains under-developed and its share in overall internal cargo transport remains abysmally low.

"IWT sector presently has a meagre modal share of 0.4 percent in India compared to 42 percent in Netherlands, 8.7 percent in China and over 8 percent in USA. This is a great economic opportunity loss to the country," it said.

The Central Government can undertake development of an Inland waterway for navigation, only when it is declared as National Waterways by an Act of Parliament, the government said.

"Therefore, for the development of additional 101 identified waterways for the purpose of navigation, it become necessary that these inland waterways are declared as NW by an Act of Parliament," it added.

On declaration of a waterway as a NW, development and regulation for shipping and navigation by mechanically propelled vessels come under the jurisdiction of Central Government.

However, rights over the usage of water, ownership of appurtenant land, minerals, metals, sand etc continue to be with the State Government.

Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari has earlier said for 55 rivers, consultants have been appointed and detailed project reports (DPR) will be formulated once necessary approvals were sought, he added.

The projects will be done on public-private-partnership basis, he said.

He has said his ministry was committed to reducing the traffic burden from roads and promote water transportation where transportation cost is barely 30 paise a km in comparison to Re 1 by railways and Rs 1.5 a km through roads.

Inland waterways comprising rivers, lakes, canals, creeks and backwaters extend to about 14,500 km across the country. However, potential of this mode of transport has not been fully exploited so far.

The government has already decided to launch PM Jal Marg Yojna and projects for setting up dry and satellite ports, besides converting riverways into waterways.

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