Inaugural Meeting of Inland Waterways Development Council Sets Ambitious Agenda for India’s Waterways Sector

In a significant stride towards the comprehensive development of India’s inland waterways, the Inland Waterways Authority of India, under the Ministry of Ports, Shipping, and Waterways (MoPSW), hosted the inaugural ‘Inland Waterways Development Council’ meeting in Kolkata on Monday.

Union Minister of Ports, Shipping & Waterways and AYUSH, Sarbananda Sonowal, presided over the day-long meeting aboard the vessel MV Ganga Queen. The event, which brought together key figures from waterways states, central government, and notable personalities like Shripad Naik and Shantanu Thakur, Ministers of State for Ports, Shipping & Waterways, witnessed groundbreaking initiatives and discussions aimed at propelling India’s inland water transportation sector.

Among the highlights, Minister Sarbananda Sonowal unveiled two significant initiatives – “Harit Nauka – Guidelines for Green Transition of Inland Vessels” and the “River Cruise Tourism Roadmap 2047.” These initiatives align with the Ministry’s commitment to fostering sustainable practices and promoting eco-friendly vessels for passenger transportation.

The meeting also anticipated the signing of several Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs), reflecting collaborative efforts to advance the inland waterways and associated sectors. The Ministry, in its statement, emphasized that the gathering included the active participation of Ministers from various State Governments, accompanied by their principal secretaries, Secretaries, and numerous senior officers of the Central Government, along with domain experts in the field.

The packed agenda of the inaugural meeting addressed vital issues in the development of inland waterways in India. Sessions covered topics such as fairway development, private sector engagement and best practices, optimizing cargo transport efficiency in Inland Water Transport (IWT), and fostering the promotion and development of eco-friendly vessels for passenger transportation. Discussions also delved into exploring the economic advantages of river cruise tourism.

The Ministry has set ambitious objectives, aiming to elevate the modal share of Inland Water Transportation (IWT) from the current 2 per cent to 5 per cent, in line with the goals outlined in the Maritime India Vision 2030. Additionally, as part of the Maritime Amrit Kaal Vision 2047, the ministry aims to substantially increase the existing IWT cargo volume from approximately 120 MTPA to over 500 MTPA, marking a significant leap forward in the development of inland waterways in the country.

In West Bengal, the Sagarmala Programme is actively driving maritime development with 62 projects valued at Rs. 16,300 Crores. Notably, 19 projects worth approximately Rs. 1,100 Crore have been completed, while 43 projects, totaling around Rs 15 thousand crores, are at various stages of implementation.

Among these initiatives, 11 projects, with partial funding of around Rs 650 Crore from the Ministry of Ports, Shipping, and Waterways (MoPSW), are making significant progress. Six of these projects, valued at approximately Rs 400 Crore, have reached completion, while the remaining five, worth Rs 250 Crore, are in different phases of implementation. Achievements include successful improvements in road connectivity, facilitating port and trade users, and a Rs. 47 Crore project for the upgradation of tracks at the EJC yard of Kolkata Port, enhancing safety and efficiency.

Upcoming projects include the establishment of the Centre for Inland and Coastal Maritime Technology at IIT Kharagpur, with 100% financial assistance from Sagarmala, and anti-erosion work on the left bank of the river Hooghly/Bhagirathi Block & P.S. Kalyani Nadia district, a Rs. 17.7 Crore initiative aimed at preventing bank erosion and safeguarding the livelihood of local communities.

The establishment of the Inland Waterways Development Council in October 2023 by the Government of India underscores its commitment to the comprehensive development of inland waterways and the associated Inland Water Transport (IWT) ecosystem for improved cargo efficiency, passenger movement, and river cruise tourism, with active participation from States and Union Territories, the ministry added in its statement.

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