Government is set to invite bids for developing eight rivers as National Waterways within a month, a move that will boost movement of goods and passengers through rivers.
The development comes barely a month after Parliament gave its nod to a Bill to convert 106 rivers across the country into National Waterways. Prior to this, the country had only five river stretches designated as National Waterways.
“We will invite bids for EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) of eight waterways within a month,” a senior Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) official said.
The official said that work is being done on war-footing to prepare the detailed project reports for a number of other waterways.
The official said that major works have been initiated to make the existing five waterways operational in the country.
The work includes “removal of hard strata between Ghazipur and Varanasi and construction of multimodal terminal at Varanasi” on National Waterways No 1 (1,620 kilometres stretch of Allahabad-Haldia on Ganga), the official said.
The ongoing projects on National Waterway No 2 – 891 km stretch on Brahmaputra’s Dhubri-Sadiya – include creation of Inland Waterway Transport infrastructure in the North Eastern states and roll-on/roll-off (Ro-Ro) facilities at Dhubri and Hatsinghimari, the official added.
Likewise on National Waterway 4 – 1,078 km stretch on Kakinada-Puducherry canals and East Coast Canal integrated with Brahmani river – fairway and terminal facilities are being developed.
Dredging is being done between Padanipal and Erada on National Waterway 5 on Mahanadi delta rivers (588 km).
The move will boost transportation of goods and passengers through waterways, which is considered an environment-friendly and economical mode of transportation.
Shipping and Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari has been stressing on the need to develop waterways and recently said that the mode had taken a backseat in India, with only 3.5% of trade being done through the mode here as against 47% in China, 40% in Europe, 44% in Japan and Korea and 35% in Bangladesh.
At the recent Maritime India Summit, he said that logistics cost in the country is high at 18% and transporting things from Mumbai to London was less expensive and easy in comparison to transportation to Delhi from Mumbai.
The government aims to garner Rs 1 lakh crore to fund projects for low-cost river transportation and seeks to develop national waterways to cut logistics cost, make Indian industry competitive and help developing smart townships along the rivers.
Gadkari has earlier said five Ro-Ro services for freight transport were being introduced at five places – Kolkata, Sahibganj, Varanasi, Patna and Bhagalpur – besides setting up small terminals at a cost of Rs 1,000 crore.