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India to harness 50,000 km waterfront, raise Rs 70,000 crore: Nitin Gadkari

India to harness 50,000 km waterfront, raise Rs 70,000 crore: Nitin Gadkari

NEW DELHI: The government is looking to harness the country’s 50,000 km of sea and river fronts as waterways and mulling innovative ways of financing to raise around Rs 70,000 crore to develop these stretches in the first phase, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari today said.

Parliament by passing the crucial bill to declare 111 rivers across the country into National Waterways last week has paved way for development of these stretches as transport carriers. So far, only five of the river stretches were declared as National Waterways.

“India has its unique advantage. Its 14 of the states are bestowed with 7,500 km of coastline with 14,500-km of potentially navigable waterways. In addition, 116 rivers across the country provide 35,000 km of navigable stretches. In total we have about 50,000 km of waterways which on development will change the face of India,” Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Minister Gadkari told PTI.

Now that Parliament has given its nod to declare 111 additional rivers as waterways, the government is committed to aggressively work to develop these as the environment-friendly mode of transport which is bound to decrease significantly the huge 18 per cent logistics cost in India.

“At the same time, we are looking at innovative ways of financing as we would be requiring an initial about Rs 70,000 crore to develop these river stretches into navigable transport ways,” Gadkari said.

Besides budgetary support, multilateral funds, public-private-partnership and market borrowing would be explored. Access to funds like National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF) and Central Road Fund (CRF) will also be required because of environment benefit of IWT, he said.

“We would not have any dearth of funds. In this year’s budgetary allocation, Rs 800 crore have been provided for development of waterways while we can raise another Rs 800 crore through issuing tax free bonds.

“Our ports will have profit to the tune of Rs 6,000 crore this fiscal which will gradually increase. Besides, they have fixed deposits worth Rs 8,000 crore. A bank is ready to provide Rs 50,000 crore loan in dollar terms at a very low rate of interest of 2 per cent,” Gadkari said.

“With all these measures, we will generate enough funds to revolutionise India’s waterways,” the Minister said.

Gadkari said by promoting water transport, logistic cost, which is 18 per cent in India as compared to barely 8-10 per cent in China and 10-12 per cent in European countries, will come down significantly.

The reforms in the sector would be visible in a few years, he said adding water transport was not only environment-friendly but also much cheaper as it costs Rs 1.5 a km to carry the cargo from road while the same stands at Re 1 from rail whereas through waterways it reduces to only 25 paise per km.

“One horse power can carry 4,000 kg load in water but only 150 kg by road and 500 kg by rail. One litre of fuel can move 105 tonne per km by inland waterways but only 85 tonne per km by rail and 24 tonne per km by road,” the Minister said.

He regretted that the waterways had taken a backseat in India, with only 3.5 per cent of trade being done through the mode here as against 47 per cent in China, 40 per cent in Europe, 44 per cent in Japan and Korea and 35 per cent in Bangladesh.

He said of the 106 National Waterways (NWS) proposed to be developed, tender documents for development of eight NWs is under advanced stage of preparation.

For the remaining NWs feasibility studies are being undertaken as an advance action.

“For 46 NWs feasibility and detailed project report is under preparation and is expected by July 30,” he said.

Apart from transport mode, NWs will have huge potential for cruise tourism, water sports, fisheries development and feeder routes.

Parliament on March 9 gave nod to a bill to convert 111 rivers across the country into National Waterways.

The bill provides for enacting a central legislation to declare 106 additional inland waterways as the national waterways in addition to five existing national waterways.

Before passage of the bill, responding to contention by some members that huge investment sand development of waterways were his tall claims, the Minister had asserted, “I do not make any announcement in the air… I promise if any of my announcements is not fulfilled, I will apologise in this House….You may even bring a Privilege Motion against me if my promise is not fulfilled.”

When Deputy Chairman P J Kurien has asked him to refrain from throwing such a challenge, Gadkari said, “I am 100 per cent ready… We have already signed contracts worth Rs 1.5 lakh crore in the road sector. I am not dependent on budget.”

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