The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), responsible for development and regulation of inland waterways for shipping and navigation under the Ministry of Shipping, has announced that the country’s National Waterways has carried approximately 73.64 million metric tonnes of cargo in FY 2019-20.
To drive this endeavour, IWAI brought 8 new Ro-PAX vessels to be deployed on NW-1 and NW-2 for transportation of passengers, vehicles and goods.
Aiming to increase cargo transportation through this mode to 120 million tonne by 2023, the shipping ministry recently announced that it will seek technical assistance grant of Rs 50 crore from the World Bank for Eastern Waterways Connectivity Transport Grid (EWaCTG) to develop rivers and canals as an alternate mode of transportation between India and its five neighbouring countries in the east.
Given the ongoing trend, IWAI in December 2019 revised the cargo handling target to 100 million tonne (MT) on national waterways by 2021-22, as against its earlier estimation of 150 MT.
However, industry players are optimistic but cautious on success of cargo movement of the national waterways.
“So much had been done by the government for development of national waterways. But, banks are still not forthcoming about financing assets like vessels for deployment on these waterways, saying that it is non-viable,” a city based logistics operator PDP Group’s Chairman Pramod Srivastava had said sometime back.
In 2016, the Centre declared 106 national waterways in addition to the existing five, taking India’s total navigable inland waterways to 20,000 km.