The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), works for the development and maintenance of national waterways. Amita Prasad, Chairperson of IWAI, spoke to BE’s Ellora De regarding infrastructure creation in inland waterways in India.
Q. The Budget 2019-20 increased allocation towards Inland Water Transport Authority. In this context, what is the scope for your organisation?
A. To promote inland water transport in the country as an economical, environment friendly supplementary mode of transport to rail and road, the government declared 111 National Waterways (including five national waterways declared earlier) through the National Waterways Act 2016. The National Waterway 1 (Ganga - Bhagirathi-Hooghly river system from Allahabad to Haldia), the National Waterway 2 (River Brahmaputra from Dhubri to Sadiya) and the National Waterway 3 (West Coast Canal from Kottapuram to Kollam along with Udyogmandal and Champakara Canals) have already been developed with fairway, River Information System (RIS), navigational aids, jetties and terminals with mechanised equipment handling facilities for loading and unloading cargo. These waterways are operational and vessels are plying. Out of the newly announced waterways, development work has commenced for 10 projects.
The government is also implementing the Jal Marg Vikas Project (JMVP) at an estimated cost of `5369.18 crore for capacity augmentation of navigation on National Waterway -1 (NW-1) on the Haldia – Varanasi stretch of Ganga-Bhagirathi- Hooghly River System with the technical and financial assistance of the World Bank. The project is scheduled to be completed by 2023. Additionally, projects worth Rs. 1800 crores approximately have commenced on ground in a time period of three years after attaining statutory clearances. Under phase – I of NW 4, fairway development work in Vijayawada – Muktyala stretch of river Krishna has also commenced at a cost of `96 crore. Moreover, development activities have been undertaken in 10 new national waterways.
Q. What are the plans to improve riverine connectivity and optimally utilise inland waterways for better logistical connectivity?
A. Logistics costs in India constitute about 14% of the total GDP which is much greater than that found in developed economies (at about 6-8%). Adoption of multimodal transportation by integration of road, rail and inland waterway transportation (IWT) can lower the logistics cost for individual cargo parcels. Moreover, by aggregating cargo into larger parcels, economies of scale can be channelised to further lower the per unit logistics cost. To encourage multimodal transportation on National Waterway -1, IWAI is developing three multimodal terminals on this waterway where road, rail and the IWT will converge. Varanasi Multimodal Terminal is one of such terminals and the Phase 1 of this project has been completed and inaugurated by our Prime Minister on November 12, 2018. The selection process for the concessionaire on PPP mode for Operation, Maintenance and Development (Phase 2) is in advanced stage. The scheduled bids submission date is September 9, 2019. The Sahibganj Multimodal Terminal is the second such multimodal terminal. Phase1 of it is near completion and may be inaugurated in September, 2019. The selection process for the concessionaire on PPP mode for Operation, Maintenance and Development (Phase 2) has been initiated. The third one, Haldia Multimodal Terminal, is scheduled to be completed by December, 2019.
Apart from the above, IWAI is planning to develop two freight villages adjacent to Varanasi and Sahibganj Multimodal terminals to improve the integration between various supply chain elements, especially focusing on various modes of transportation. It will also facilitate logistics cost (and time) optimisation for shipper and freight forwarders by offering the option of multimodal logistics and cargo aggregation. Such freight villages provide modal choice to the shipper and increases efficiency in logistics supply chain by reducing logistics cost and time. Land acquisition process for both the freight villages has been initiated.
Q. What are the types of cargo encouraged by IWAI?
A. Iron ore, coal, coke, steel, limestone and fly ash are currently the major commodities transported through our waterways. Containerised cargo and over dimensional cargo is also being transported. IWAI aims to increase the cargo transportation through IWT on National Waterways from 72 million metric tonnes currently to 120 million metric tonnes by 2023.