Linking rivers at 40,000 cr
With the aim of decongesting the movement of goods on land and promoting environment friendly transportation, the government has decided to push the proposal for linking rivers.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decided to step up efforts to link rivers so that companies can move cargo from foodgrains, cement and fertilizer to cars using waterways. The proposals to link major rivers to facilitate commerce can be traced to the British colonial days. But India has not worked on developing the 14,500km (9,000 miles) of its inland waterways as an alternative route to move cargo, even though five national waterways were declared since 1986. Only three of those are operational now. According to the Ministry of Shipping, the transportation cost for inland waterways is 1.06 per tonne per kilometre, while it is 2.58 for highways. According to Amitabh Verma, Chairman of the Inland Waterways Authority of India, lack of vision and funds has been the cause of delay. Inland Waterways Authority of India is a 29-year-old body responsible for creating infrastructure on waterways. This long-pending plan has been pushed after power producer NTPC successfully transported coal from the port of Sagar Island, up for about 560km, to the Farakka thermal plant in West Bengal.
Kaushal Kishore Sharma, Director of Operations, NTPC said, “Ferrying coal through rivers eases congestion, is environment friendly and there is no additional cost.”
Verma added that more than 40,000 crore ($6 billion) will be needed to develop the new waterways. Funding is expected from World Bank, Asian Development Bank and Japan International Cooperation Agency besides the federal budget. The government presented legislation in May. This would grant the government rights to regulate and develop 101 channels across 24 states for shipping and navigation, in addition to the five waterways. The bill is likely to be passed in the November session of the Parliament. Adding to this, Verma said, “By May 2016, we will award the contracts and by November we expect some work to start. Engineering design details will be available for 53 new waterways by June 2016.”
In its plan to make transportation of cargo easier, the Government of Uttarakhand inaugurated its first logistics hub in Pantnagar. The project for the hub started in October 2012 as a partnership between the State Industrial Development Corporation of Uttarakhand Ltd (SID- CUL) and public sector enterprise Container Corporation of India Ltd (CONCOR). This hub will bring relief to industries which manufacture products in Uttarakhand and transport them to the other states.
Government officials say that an investment of 95 crore was made on the hub and it is expected to generate revenues worth 450 crore annually, to be shared equally by both companies. R Rajesh Kumar, Managing Director, SIDCUL says, “Poor connectivity made investors hesitant but with the completion of the first phase of the hub, the state is hopeful of increased investments.”
There are more than 700 industries in Pantnagar. As freight trains will transport cargo directly from the logistics hub to the Inland Container Depot (ICD) at New Delhi, it will also be cost effective. Spread over 40 acres, the hub houses a warehouse with facilities including track parking, service centre, platforms and dormitories. SL Semwal, General Manager, SIDCUL says, “The hub comprises a systematic layout for easy arrival and departure of freight trains.”