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Editorial:Unleash the Potential of Inland Waterways to Unite India

Port Wings, 09 May 2018:

By calling upon Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra states to form a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for developing Godavari Inland Waterways, Union Minister for Road Transport, Highways and Water Resources Nitin Gadkari has hit the right notes for national unity on water-related issues.

By announcing the sanctioning of Rs 2,000 crore for the project, the minister has literally spelled out the Union Government’s intention of playing the unifiers’ role.

The Centre thinks that the proposed Godavari waterway project, if implemented, will change the face of the economy of these three states, and could cut the high cost of logistics in the country.

It is heartening to know that a feasibilty study has been conducted and a detailed project report will also be prepared soon.

The minister also noted that about 3,000 tmc of Godavari water was going into the sea and even if half of it is saved, then water problems of Karanataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu would be solved.

It may be a passing reference in his speech, the issue of water management is indeed needs to be debated in length and breadth among the parched South Indian states.

This move follows the flagging off two vessels of 1400 tons and 300 tons capacity in Varanasi in August last year by Gadkari  which added a new chapter in the history of utilising inland waterways in the country.

India has about 14,500 km of navigable waterways. Considering the inherent advantages of this mode of transportation, the Government of India wants to make it an effective supplementary mode of transportation with respect to cargo transport – equal to rail and road transportation.

Transportation of cargo over inland waterways offers the advantage of both lowering carbon dioxide emissions and curbing the rate of road accidents, where India has the dubious of distinction of being among the worst in the world. Despite these tangible advantages, developing the sector in India is something that has clearly eluded policymakers, who have continued their focus on the railways and roads sectors over the years.

In China, navigable inland waterways total more than 1,00,000 km and there are a large number of inland port facilities with berths for large vessels, with the inland waterways transportation making up to 47 per cent of the total transport available there.

The exploitation of sector has remained neglected as most waterways in India require constant dredging on account of heavy silting and draft is available only seasonally. Besides, not many entrepreneurs are willing to invest in inland vessels, which have resulted in under utilisation of whatever infrastructure is created, thereby spelling trouble for the development of the sector.

However, the latest developments coupled with the Union Government’s zeal to develop inland waterways as alternative mode of transport, will definitely rekindle hopes among the potential investors on the sector that not only deserves huge investments, but also environmentally friendly step to ensure economic activities along the banks.


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