National Waterways-1 covering 1,620 km through Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal has been opened recently.
The National Waterways-1, running through the Ganga-Bhagirathi-Hooghly River System (Haldia-Allahabad) and covering 1,620 km through the Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal region, has been recently opened and eight more waterways are ready to be operational soon, according to the status report of the Development of Inland Waterways, under the Ministry of Shipping, Road Transport and Highways.
The waterways development work is being taken care of by the Ministry headed by Nitin Gadkari.
In order to boost freight transport through waterways, the Narendra Modi-led government had officially notified 111 waterways for development of Inland Water Transportation (IWT) as per the National Waterways Act, 2016.
According to the status report on the progress of waterways, the prominent waterways that are to be open soon include, Waterways-2 that runs through the Brahmaputra River (Dhubri-Sadiya) system and covers 891 km distance of major junctions of Assam, Waterways-3, that runs through the West Coast Canal (Kottapuram-Kollam), Champakara and Udyogmandal canals of Kerala, covering 205 km of the state; New Waterways 97, that covers 201 km through the Sunderbans in West Bengal, and Waterways 100 that runs through the Tapi River in Guajrat and covers 173 km.
Feasibility tests for movement of inland cargo in all the above-mentioned waterways have already been completed and currently, the cargo test runs are being conducted by the Ministry, according to the status report.
“The government is working to develop inland waterways as an alternative mode of transport in the country, which is cleaner and cheaper than both road and rail transport. Feasibility tests have been completed on nine waterways and the tendering process for the feasibility tests to assess the viability of cargo movement in waterways 16, 37, 27, 68 and 86 is on,” the same status report reads.
Dhirendra Singh, a former official of Shipping Corporation of India, said: “The flagging off of PepsiCo’s 16 containers from Kolkata to Varanasi through National Waterways-1 is indeed a historical feat for the freight movement system of the country. This development has come at a time when the demand for efficient and cheaper logistics movement every year is rising in the country.”
“India has nearly 14,500 km of navigable waterways, about 5,200 km of rivers and 4,000 km of canals. The utilisation of this vast network is abysmally low and this has put enormous pressure on the existing road and rail network infrastructure,” Singh said.
The current landscape of the inland cargo movement of the country is abysmal and according to World Bank data, India’s freight movement through waterways has an insignificant share of 0.5% till date compared to 65% by road and 27% by rail.