Waterways is the new focus for us

New Delhi: The Inland Waterways Bill to convert 101 rivers across the country into transport channels will be introduced in Parliament on April 20, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari said on Tuesday.

“I will be introducing the Inland Waterways Bill in Parliament on April 20,” Gadkari said at a CII event in the national capital.

Gadkari added that the government is contemplating setting up five more major ports in the country, two of which have already been announced in West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh, to be built at an estimated investment of Rs 16,000 crore.

At present, there are 12 major ports — Kandla, Mumbai, JNPT, Marmugao, New Mangalore, Cochin, Chennai, Ennore, V O Chidambarnar, Visakhapatnam, Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia) — in India.

Gadkari said the existing five inland waterways would be developed on a public-private-partnership (PPP) mode next year.

“One is Ganga, which flows from Gangotri to the Bay of Bengal via Haldia. The other is Mahanadi of Odisha, which is in a coal mining area. The third is Brahmaputra. The fourth is Buckingham Canal which links Tamil Nadu with Andhra Pradesh and the fifth one is in Kerala,” he said, adding that waterways would cut transport cost by 30%.

Emphasising that inland waterway ports would be built on the pattern of airports, he said the first inland waterway port would be inaugurated at Varanasi.

“Inland waterways port which we plan to build will be like Ahmedabad and Mumbai airport. It will have shops, cafeteria, shops of handlooms and handicrafts. People can also live there. The first such water port will be in Varanasi and we will inaugurate it very soon,” Gadkari said, adding that the PPP model is more viable in the waterways sector as compared to roads.

The government plans to reduce traffic burden from roads and promote waterways where transportation cost is barely 50 paise a km in comparison to Re 1 by railways and Rs 1.5 a km through roads.

The government’s top priority is building waterways, followed by railways and roads, he added.


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