Smooth flow – On Inland Waterways in India

Source: The post is based on an article “Smooth flowpublished in Business Standard on 23rd November 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Infrastructure

Relevance: inland waterways in India

News: The government of Uttar Pradesh has recently decided to use inland waterways to move export-bound cargo to international seaports.

It will integrate the Varanasi-Haldia inland waterway with the existing roads and highways network and help in developing a multimodal transport system in the country.

What is the present situation of inland waterways in India?

India has a huge inland waterways network which can be used for the movement of goods and passengers.

The National Waterways Act, 2016 has identified around 111 navigable water courses and declared them “national inland waterways”.

However, only 25 of them have been developed into operable water channels and out of these only 13 are being used.

Inland waterways in India are mostly unutilised for commercial purposes despite the growing need in the economy.

India lags behind the US, China and the European Union, where more than 20 percent of merchandise transportation is done through waterways.

However, India passed the Inland Vessels Act last year which is expected to leverage inland waterways in India.

What are the benefits of inland waterways?

Inland water transportation is a cheaper, convenient and environment friendly mode of transporting cargo goods.

A World Bank study has found that water transportation is about 30 per cent cheaper than railways and 60 percent less expensive than roadways.

Carbon emission is also less compared to other road transports. However, there are also few concerns associated with it.

What are the concerns?

a) Water courses need to be regularly cleaned to clear silt deposits, weeds and other obstructions, b) the loading and unloading points need to be augmented including terminal facilities for ships, and c) adequate water flows would need to be maintained in these streams at all times.

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