‘Inland waterways bill augurs well for economy’

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Commodore S ShekharAfter decades of neglect, the inland waterways, a sector which is economical and more environment-friendly compared to the rail and road communication is in a revival mode. The government has informed that various measures are taken to boost the extensive network of waterways, and that a step in this direction is to introduce a bill to convert 101 rivers into waterways in the upcoming monsoon session of parliament.

The conversion of 101 rivers to waterways would not just boost the economy, but also enhance tourism and inland trade, say experts.

“The waterways are lagging behind the road and rail transport; it should be given due attention as it can reduce the cost of transportation. The pollution level owing to road transport is many times more than the water transport. Apart from pollution, fossil fuel used by road transport is tremendous. For decades together there was no political will, but now if the proposed bill is introduced, it will boost the economy and will create hundreds of job opportunities,” said Commodore S Shekhar, Regional Director (Chennai), National Maritime Foundation.

According to the Ministry of Road Transport, Shipping and Ports, the total transportation cost through waterways comes to barely 30 paise per km in comparison to Re 1 per km through railways and Rs 1.5 per km through road.

“Many countries use waterways for trade. For example, in Germany, one of the major arteries of transportation is water. They use rivers to transport goods up to the US. Similarly, in Russia, Leningrad is connected with Moscow and they have an inland water transport. First we need to connect our rivers, which will give immense boost to inland trade via water,” he added.

Meanwhile the Union Minister for Road & Transport, Shipping and Ports, Nitin Gadkari, in a conference related to inland waterways informed that there is a huge potential for internal waterways sector and the ministry targets to add two per cent to country’s GDP and create 25 lakh job opportunities by the time the Central Government completes two years in office.

However, while the present government has shown a positive intent to bring in the much-needed reforms in the sector, the crucial bill, which seeks to convert 101 rivers into waterways and is scheduled to be passed in the upcoming monsoon session of parliament, is likely to be delayed, a senior official informed eGov magazine.

“The bill is with the standing committee and they have not given a report on it yet. As soon as we get the report, we will see what recommendations have been made by standing committee and whether there some changes are required in the bill. If there are any changes, then it would go to the law department and to the Cabinet for approval. Again, it will be introduced in parliament. Therefore, the legislative process could take some time, making it difficult to be re-introduced and passed in the monsoon session. The bill would then be placed in the winter session,” another senior official told eGov magazine.

The Inland waterways comprises rivers, lakes, canals, creeks and backwaters, and extends about 14,500 kms in the country.

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