India is in talks with South Korea, known for its maritime technology prowess, for long-term partnership to develop its rivers to drive economic growth.
Earlier this year, Parliament has enacted a legislation to convert 111 rivers across the country into National Waterways, a move that would boost movement of goods and passengers via rivers and reduce transportation cost substantially.
“We are in talks with a Korean government company to develop our rivers,” Shipping, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari told PTI.
“We have offered them to select out of 111 rivers and develop these. Once we start getting profit, we can return their investment in 15-20 years.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had opened a mega Maritime India Summit earlier this year with Korea, a world leader in shipbuilding, as the partner and has promised to personally handhold investors for a “safe, secure and satisfactory” berthing so as to transform the country’s 7,500-km long coastline an “engine of growth”.
Gadkari said waterways unfortunately had taken a backseat in India, with only 3.5 per cent of trade being done through the mode here as against 47 per cent in China, 40 per cent in Europe, 44 per cent in Japan and Korea and 35 per cent in Bangladesh.
According to the minister, if developed properly, inland water transport, which is an environment-friendly and cost-effective mode of transport, will reduce the high logistics cost — currently at 18 per cent — and boost the economy.
Gadkari said that if all the 111 rivers are developed as waterways, it will “revolutionise” the Indian economy.
Maritime development is high on the priority list of the government as it has the potential of opening a new era of foreign investment in ship-building, repair, ship breaking, inland water transportation, cruise shipping and hinterland connectivity, to name a few.
Maritime logistics is considered as a key component of the Indian economy, accounting for 90 per cent of export-import trade by volume and 72 per cent by value.
He said a total of one billion tonne of cargo is being handled by over 200 ports, including 12 major ones, in the country and is expected to grow to 2.5 billion tonnes by 2025.
Talks are also on with Singapore for development of cruise shipping in the country.
The maritime summit was held on April 14-16 this year and was billed as a flagship event to harness India’s immense natural maritime advantages with a 7,500 km coastline and 14,500 km of navigable and potential navigable waterways.