Ojaank IAS Academy

OJAANK IAS ACADEMY

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OJAANK IAS ACADEMY

Inland Waterways of India

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The recent decision of the Uttar Pradesh government to take advantage of inland waterways to transport export-oriented cargo to international ports appears to be a welcome step towards developing a multimodal transport system in the country.

The landlocked state of Uttar Pradesh intends to use the vast stretch of river Ganga to carry goods directly to Haldia port in West Bengal for shipment overseas. But the integration of the Varanasi-Haldia inland waterway with the existing road and highway network will result in a convenient and coherent cargo and passenger transport system.

More importantly, it may also motivate other states to profitably utilize their water transport potential, which is either untapped or not fully utilized at present.

If we talk about India’s potential in the inland waterways sector, then India has a vast inland waterways network spread over about 15,000 km. This inland waterway network is in the form of rivers, streams, canals, backwaters, creeks and other types of water bodies that can be used for the movement of goods and passengers.

India has made a statutory law for using its inland waterways. The National Waterways Act, 2016 has identified 111 navigable waterways and declared them as “National Inland Waterways”. Only 25 of them have so far been developed into operable water channels and only 13 are being fully or partially used for the purpose.

Most of the commercially navigable waterways remain largely unutilized despite the urgency of expanding the overall transport and logistics network to meet the growing needs of a developing economy.

Not more than 60 million tonnes of cargo are carried annually through these waterways. It compares relatively poorly with the US and countries like China and the European Union.

With the passage of the Inland Vessels Act in India in 2021, the situation may start showing improvement. This is because the law specifically aims to make India’s inland waterways a viable, convenient and affluent means of transport for both goods and passengers.

Inland water transport is, undeniably, a relatively cost-effective, hassle-free and environment-friendly mode of transportation of goods, especially bulk cargo such as coal, fly-ash, iron and odd-shaped consignments.

A World Bank study found that water transport is about 30% cheaper than railways and 60% cheaper than road transport.

Furthermore, the carbon emissions in case of container ships are only 32โ€“36 g per tonne-km as against 51โ€“91 g by road transport vehicles. Such advantages make it a better mode of transport where the speed of delivery is not an important issue.

There are certain pre-requisites for optimum utilization of inland waterways. For one, these water sources would need to be dug regularly to clear them of silt, weeds and other obstructions.

In addition, terminal facilities and the network of loading and unloading points will need to be augmented, although some work is already underway on this front.

-OJAANK SHUKLA

( DIRECTOR โ€“ OJAANK IAS )


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