Having secured Rs 2,000 crore from a central fund for development of water transport, operationalising at least 10 of the 111 National Waterways next year is on the top of government’s agenda, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari has said. The government last week approved allocation of 2.5 per cent of the Central Road Fund (CRF) for NWs that would result in about Rs 2,000 crore proceeds a year for their development. “The Cabinet has approved Rs 2,000 crore from CFR and we can easily get works done worth Rs 12,000 crore from that by raising more funds. It is my endeavour to operationalise 10 waterways before December 2018,” the shipping, road transport and highways minister told PTI in an interview.
Massive work worth Rs 5,000 crore is already underway on Ganga (1,620 km) with World Bank assistance which is the National Waterway No 1. The work includes development of three multi-modal hubs at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Haldia in West Bengal and Sahebganj in Bihar.
The Inland Waterways Authority of India, under the shipping ministry, is also facilitating cruise operations on NW-1 from Kolkata to Varanasi in collaboration with private cruise operators. Gadkari said that apart from Ganga, development of NW-2 which is Brahmaputra (890 km stretch) is also top on the agenda of the government.”After Ganga and Brahmaputra, work will begin on Mandavi and Zuari in next three months,” he said.
The third project will be Amba and then on Brahmani river between Talcher and Paradip. The shipping ministry has a target to start work on 24 NWs in the next three years. Parliament last year had enacted National Waterways Act, 2016, for developing and maintaining the existing five NWs and 106 new NWs across the country.
The Cabinet earlier this month has approved allocation of 2.5 per cent of CRF which is a duty on excise and customs imposed on petrol and high speed diesel for waterways development. The cess at present is Rs 6 per litre.It has also directed that while implementing viable NWs projects, all such components that can be done on PPP basis, should be explored and government funding may be used only if private investment is not forthcoming.
The fund collected under CRF was to the tune of Rs 80,800 crore in 2016-17, Rs 69,540 crore in 2015-16 and Rs 25,122 crore in 2014-15. The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) has estimated that approximately Rs 25,000 crore would be required for development of identified projects on NWs till 2022-23.
In this regard, works for construction of multi-modal terminals, new navigation lock, River Information System and development of fairway have already commenced under the Jal Marg Vikas Project being implemented on NW-1 (River Ganga).
In addition to becoming one of the principal cargo movement routes in India, this stretch on NW-1 has good potential for river cruise tourism. IWAI also has planned to undertake work on the development of 24 NWs during the next three years. “It is estimated that 1.8 lakh persons would be provided employment in the Inland Waterways Transport (IWT) sector in the next five years,” the government said.
New employment opportunities are expected to be generated for operation and management of fairway, terminals, aids to navigation, barges, training and other areas, it said adding development of additional 106 NWs will create more job opportunities. It is estimated that a standard 2000 DWT vessel has the potential to transport 125 truck loads and almost one complete train rake (40 rail wagons) load.