Cabinet gives green light to convert 101 rivers into inland waterways

New Delhi: The Indian government, which has been deplorably slow in harnessing the transportation power of the country’s rivers, finally cleared the way for the conversion of 101 riverine stretches across the country into national inland waterways.

“The Union cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, today gave its approval for enactment of Central legislation for declaring 101 additional Inland Waterways as National Waterways (NW) for navigation,” an official statement said.

India currently has only five national waterways; and the cabinet nod, as a precursor of its conversion into an Act of Parliament, will enable the creation of a nationwide multi-modal logistics supply chain, involving rail, road and waterway inter-connectivity.

In the words of the government, it “would positively contribute to the GDP by opening up business opportunities in the areas of dredging, barge construction, barge operation, barge repair facilities, terminal construction and cruise tourism, among others.

“Investment in all these business areas will create numerous opportunities for employment and economic development, and reduce pressure from the already over-loaded, congested and costlier other surface modes of transport.”

Inland Water Transport (IWT), which is recognised globally as a cost-efficient way of transportation, will result in massive cost savings in comparison to rail and road transport, besides being environment-friendly. Due to very little investment having been made so far on the development of this mode, compared to global levels, and to the road and rail modes in the country, the IWT mode remains under-developed.

The share of IWT in overall internal cargo transport in India remains abysmally low at 0.4%, compared to 42% in the Netherlands, 8.7% in China and over 8% in the USA.

Shirish Nadkarni

Shirish Nadkarni is a management consultant and freelance international journalist, who has been writing on all spheres of Indian business for the past three decades for a number of reputed overseas publications. An avid sportsman, Nadkarni has represented India in international veterans' badminton since 1997, and was the 55+ age group doubles world champion in 2005.
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