Published On: Thu, Jun 4th, 2015

India government urges exploiting business and boosting tourism from inland waterways

BL01_P16_INLAND_1161880fThe government of India today urged industry to cash in on the business opportunities thrown up by its resolve to develop inland waterways which has emerged as the most economically viable mode of transport for cargo and people, and which will promote tourism as well.

This exhortation to industry came from Mr. Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping, while addressing a national conference on “Inland Waterways: Issues, Options and Strategies” organized by FICCI, jointly with the Ministry of Shipping and Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI).

A bill would be tabled in the winter session of Parliament to develop an additional 101 inland waterways. The development of these waterways would ease the pressure on road and rail transport and reduce logistics cost to one-fifth when compared to other modes of transport. It would help in bringing down levels of pollution, said Mr. Gadkari.

Speaking on Public Private Partnership (PPP), he said that in the last one and a half months, five projects for road sector have been approved under PPP mode and there was a renewed attraction towards PPP. He urged the industry captains to come forward with innovative proposals and partner with government via PPP and joint ventures.

Mr. Gadkari informed the industry that all projects would be awarded only through tenders. The government is working towards accomplishing its targets in a transparent, result-oriented and time-bound manner and would fast-track decisions to expedite the process of completing projects.

Mr. Gadkari said that his ministry targets to add 2% to country’s GDP and create 25 lakh job opportunities with the completion of Central government’s two years in office.

Mr. Rajive Kumar, Secretary, Ministry of Shipping, said that the numbers clearly indicated the huge potential that the inland waterways has to offer and called on the industry to come up with out of the box solutions and become a part of the success story of inland waterways in India. He added that a framework was needed to be worked out for the development of the sector.

Mr. Kumar said that in the winter session of the Parliament, the Bill to develop 101 additional inland waterways would be tabled. The development of these waterways would hugely impact in lowering transportation cost and create huge employment opportunities for the country’s youth.

Mr. Amitabh Verma, Chairman, Inland Waterways Authority of India, said that the country has five waterways, of which only three are operational. Inland waterways which had been neglected for years, has been brought to the fore front by the government’s initiatives with its strict timelines. He added that the government was in the process of setting up four multi-mode inland waterway terminals along the National Waterway to facilitate road connectivity and provide linkage with the railway network.

Mr. Verma said that with allocation of funds for the sector in the Budget, there was no dearth of funds. However, the lack of capacity was a challenge for the sector. He added that the private sector had much scope in inland waterways development ranging from barge construction and operation, cruise operation, hydrographic surveys to dredging and skilling up the requisite manpower.

Dr. Jyotsna Suri, President, FICCI, said that inland waterways were critical for creating an efficient transport system. It would help ease the growing pressure on other modes of transport, reduce transport cost, promote tourism, reduce pollution, and enhance trade as well economic growth. She added that the estimated cost of development of inland waterways was much lower than that of building highway or railway. However, despite its advantages over other modes of transport, inland waterways are not yet well-developed in India.

Dr. Suri stated that FICCI was encouraged that the Government has earmarked 101 additional inland waterways for declaring as “National Waterways.” This would enable creation of a logistic supply chain with inter-modal connectivity.

Capt. B V J K Sharma, Co-Chair, FICCI National Committee on Infrastructure, said that industry needed to remain focused as developed inland waterways could reduce the annual expenditure on logistics for India. He added that an enabling model was needed for shifting cargo carried by rail and road to coastal shipping and inland waterways.