Shipping Ministry seeks more budgetary allocation to push waterways

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NEW DELHI: Emphasising that waterways would be a game changer for the economy, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari today said the Shipping Ministry has sought enhanced allocation in the budget for the sector.

“Waterways will be a game changer for Indian economy … Unfortunately it has been on ignored despite huge importance. We are taking a number of steps to harness the full potential of the sector.

“We have sought enhanced budgetary allocation from the Finance Minister for the sector as despite being crucial to economy Shipping Ministry has a mere budgetary allocation of Rs 900 crore while Highways Ministry has Rs 45,000 crore,” Road Transport and Highways Minister said addressing India Investment Summit here.

Gadkari said his government was according topmost priority to waterways as logistics cost amounted to 30 per cent.

“While countries like Japan and Korea transported about 44 per cent of their goods through waterways, in Europe the percentage is 40 per cent. In China 47 per cent of cargo is transported through this mode but unfortunately India lags behind and the mode is used to transport only 3.5 per cent goods,” he said.

Despite being cleaner and cheaper mode of transportation, so far waterways development had occupied the backseat but government has taken a slew of steps to promote it, he said.

Not only 30 waterports are being set up in addition to 3 multimodal hubs but by March “we expect nod by the Cabinet on setting up of two major ports in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra,” the Minister said.

He added that Cabinet has already approved setting up of a major port at Sagar in West Bengal.

He said the government is hopeful of Parliament’s nod on the bill to convert 111 rivers across the country into National Waterways in the upcoming session of Parliament.

In a bid to boost movement for goods and passengers via waterways, the Cabinet last year approved plans for enactment of a legislation for converting 111 river stretches across the country into National Waterways.

Five of the river-stretches, which have been declared as National Waterways, include Allahabad-Haldia on Ganga (1,620 km), Brahmaputra’s Dhubri-Sadiya (891 km), West Coast Canal Kottapuram-Kollam (205 km), Kakinada-Puducherry canals (1,078 km) and East Coast Canal integrated with Brahmani river and Mahanadi delta rivers (588 km).

Inland waterways comprising rivers, lakes, canals, creeks and backwaters extend to about 14,500 km across the country.