The government has started conducting hydrological surveys to start the development of India’s fourth and fifth inland navigation routes – called National Waterways 4 & 5 – in South India and East India.
Hydrological survey as the first phase of development, and serve as the prelude to the development of terminals etc..
The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) is already developing three other waterways, Allahabad – Haldia, Sadiya – Dhubri (both in Ganga/Brahmaputra complex in the East) and Kottapuram – Kollam in Kerala.
However, unlike the first three, the fourth and fifth waterways will be developed in a PPP (public private partnership) model, with private companies also making investments.
Inland waterways are grossly underutilized in India, unlike in countries like the United States where large river barges and boats are crucial to moving bulk goods such as grains, minerals and fuel cheaply from one part of the country to another.
Inland waterways require regular dredging, construction of terminals for docking, loading and unloading and monitoring to be effective.
However, they are estimated to be much more efficient compared to the main routes of moving goods in India – road and rail.
According to a 1981 study, a gallon (about 4 liters) of fuel allows one ton of cargo to be shipped 59 miles by truck, 202 miles by rail and 514 miles by barge. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that per-ton mile, water transport requires 433 BTUs of energy while rail requires 696.
India is estimated to have about 14,500 km of navigable waterways
Out of this, five waterways with a total length of about 4,382 km have been declared as National Waterways.
Development of the first three waterways is being undertaken by the government. The plan is to ensure a navigational channel with targeted depth and width for most part of the year, aids for day and night navigation, fixed/ floating terminals at selected locations for berthing and loading/ unloading of vessels and connectivity, using various modes of transport such as rail, at a few selected locations.
The government said that once the hydrological surveys of National Waterways (NW) 4 & 5 is over, commercially viable stretches – identified as priority stretches – will be developed under Public Private Partnership (PPP). The contract for conducting detailed hydrographic survey on these stretches has been awarded to a contractor.