In a move to push water transport across the rivers in the country, India’s shipping minister has said that 12 major ports will develop 111 river national waterways in the country.
Nitin Jairam Gadkari, Minister for Road Transport & Highways, Shipping and Water Resources, said that this move will help move goods via rivers across the country; India is home to hundreds of rivers which have rarely been seen as a mode of transport.
Gadkari noted that in 2016, Parliament gave its nod to develop India’s rivers in hopes that such development would ease the transport of goods and passengers.
To this end, the government has directed all major ports to form a special purpose vehicle (SPV) for developing waterways. It was not clear, however, which ports would have control over which waterways or which parts of the country would be developed.
It is believed that the 111 waterways will be divided into regions and ports catering to the region will develop the waterways.
According to an estimate, India’s 12 major ports – Kandla, Mumbai, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), Marmugao, New Mangalore, Cochin, Chennai, Ennore, V O Chidambarnar, Visakhapatnam, Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia) – handle more than 61% of the country’s total cargo traffic.
India is already building out several waterways. Gadkari said that currently 3.5% of Indian trade is conducted on waterways versus 47% in China, 40% in Europe, 44% in Japan and South Korea and 35% in Bangladesh.
Funds for the project will come from a central fund that will be used for development of water transport. With a US$306 million central fund, at least 10 of the 111 national waterways could become operational this year. Feasibility reports suggest that 36 of the national waterways have been found technically viable for development.
Gadkari said that his office has already issued orders to divide rivers among ports. He noted that this mode of transport is not only a green mode of transport, but that it also has the potential to establish an optimal modal mix and reduce the cost of logistics.
By Jagdish Kumar
India Correspondent | Mumbai