First push to inland waterways on cards

Updated - November 16, 2021 05:44 pm IST

Published - August 02, 2014 08:46 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A file picture of a three-deck line in Kolkata. Photo: Sushanta Patronobish.

A file picture of a three-deck line in Kolkata. Photo: Sushanta Patronobish.

The Modi Government will give a decisive push to make the Ganga-Hooghly waterway navigable for freight movement by tying up for a World Bank loan that could be as much as $1 billion.

Developing inland waterways is a key agenda for the National Democratic Alliance Government as it pushes for decongesting communication bottlenecks and opening up options for high volume freight.

The coming week is likely to see discussions between senior officials of the World Bank and Inland Waterway Authority officials on determining the exact loan amount for constructing two barrages on the Ganga-Hooghly river.

These barrages will be part of the Government’s recent announcement of a series of barrages on the Ganga from Allahabad to Haldia which will facilitate movement of larger vessels. The plan has drawn criticism from environmentalists who have highlighted the dangers of sedimentation and the decline of fisheries.

On the other hand the Government believes that river transportation is the cheapest available option and should be maximised to boost economic growth. Already barges have begun supplying imported coal to Farakka super thermal power plant in the absence of land based transportation alternatives.

The Government wants to emulate China which has been building up an inland waterway network based financing from its resources and funding by World Bank. It already has 15,000 kms of navigable waterways and hopes to add 5,000 km more over the next decade. New Delhi also plans to spend about Rs. 1,00,000 crores on developing waterways of which Rs. 20,000 crores is likely to be from Government resources and the rest from borrowings or the private sector.

The plan for the Ganga-Bhagirathi-Hooghly stretch, which the Government is prioritising, envisages a large number of additions such as navigation aids along the entire 1,600-km-stretch and night navigation between Tribeni and Farakka, a GPS system and repair facilities along the route. Successful kick-starting of the project will see work beginning on two other national waterway channels.

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