The Uttar Pradesh Government plans to use eight rivers as inland waterways to improve connectivity and transportation of goods, especially bulk cargo such as foodgrains and fertilisers.
Senior State Government officials said the Yamuna, Gomti, Assi, Ghaghra, Rapti Betwa, Chambal and the Varuna rivers will be used as waterways to transport goods and people.
The move is in line with the BJP-led Centre's Maritime India Vision 2030 which envisages increasing the share of inland water transport to 5% by 2030. Work on achieving the target has already started. The Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh Government aims to provide the plan with a shot in the arm, the officials said.
The proposed waterways authority will have officials from the transport, irrigation and tourism departments. However, the initial work to survey prospective waterways has been assigned to transport department officials.
Transport Minister Dayashankar Singh told PTI on Saturday, "Mother Nature has blessed Uttar Pradesh with so many rivers. The potential of these rivers has been neglected in the past. We are making an effort to make the rivers more useful for the public. The plan to develop waterways is a step towards this."
According to a Government of India report, inland water transport is the most economical mode of transportation, especially for bulk cargo such as coal, iron ore, cement, foodgrains and fertilisers.
"The plan is in the initial survey phase. The modalities of it will be decided as per the survey and the feasibility on different rivers. However, we are moving ahead with the intention to realise the aim to strengthen and expand the waterways," Mr. Singh added.
Inland water transport has a share of 2% in India's modal mix. The Centre intends to increase the share to 5%, according to the Maritime India Vision 2030.
The recent Ganga Vilas luxury cruise that set off from Varanasi and covered over 3,200 kilometres through 27 river systems in India and Bangladesh has given a major push towards the plan to utilise the waterways for public transport.
"Apart from looking at the waterways' potential to ferry cargo, we are also planning to boost public mobility, both for short and longer distances. The transport department will run water taxis in the rivers where it is feasible. We will get further clarity on this once the survey is completed," said Mr. Singh.
The survey will be followed by fairway development to ensure the least available depth for the movement of water taxis and cargo boats.
Under the Maritime India Vision 2030, work is underway to ensure least available depth of 2.5 metres in Barh-Ghazipur and 2.2 metres in the Ghazipur-Varanasi stretch of the National Waterway 1 on the Ganga.
The work is being done under the Jal Marg Vikas Project, undertaken by the Inland Waterways Authority of India with technical and financial assistance from the World Bank.
"The work on the waterways will be expedited following the formation of an inland waterways authority. Work is underway to get it cleared by the State Cabinet in the coming months," Mr. Singh said.