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The land of rivers and The vision of a Vikasit Bharat » Bhajpa Ki Baat

The land of rivers and The vision of a Vikasit Bharat » Kamal Sandesh

Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi flagged off the world’s longest river cruise from Varanasi to Dibrugarh, MV Ganga Vilas, marking a watershed moment. The 51-day cruise travelled unhindered for 3,200 km across 27 different river systems, allowing tourists to experience our heritage, culture and urban landscape at 50 tourist spots along the way

SARBANANDA SONOWAL

In January 2023, Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off the world’s longest river cruise from Varanasi to Dibrugarh, MV Ganga Vilas, marking a watershed moment. The 51-day cruise travelled unhindered for 3,200 km across 27 different river systems, allowing tourists to experience our heritage, culture and urban landscape at 50 tourist spots along the way. In the last decade, India has witnessed many such transformative shifts in our approach to transportation, and at the heart of this evolution lies the revival of our traditional waterways network.

Bharat, the land of rivers

The Government’s reform-centric approach is catalysing the emergence of inland waterways transport (IWT) as an environment-friendly, cost-effective transportation mode. As a significant boost, the National Waterways Act 2016 was enacted, which identified 111 waterways spanning over 20,000 km for scientific study, development, and operation as viable means of transportation.

Subsequently, the Sagarmala National Perspective Plan was launched, identifying cargo-specific opportunities for waterways transportation, followed by the

As a significant boost, the National Waterways Act 2016 was enacted, which identified 111 waterways spanning over 20,000 km for scientific study, development, and operation as viable means of transportation

enactment of the Inland Vessels Act 2021 that replaced the century-old law of 1917. These policy reforms ushered in a new wave of investments, greater ease of doing business and exponential economic growth along the national waterways (NW).

The new IV Act enables complete digitisation of the IWT sector, harmonises IWT regulations across States, raises navigation safety and cargo protection standards, enhances administrative transparency, and facilitates integrated development of inland and coastal waterways. Digital platforms such as Cargo Data Portal (CAR-D) and Portal for Asset & Navigation Information (PANI) have also been created to allow for seamless sharing of cargo and infrastructure related information between various stakeholders leading to greater data-driven decision making.

The impact of these reforms is the six-fold growth in national waterway cargo, from 18.07 MTPA in 2014 to 108.88 MTPA in 2023. This is an example of the Government’s ‘reform-perform-transform’ vision.

Investment, skill development and employment

The Prime Minister gave the ‘Arth Ganga’ and ‘Mahabahu-Brahmaputra’ holistic vision for the complete rejuvenation, infrastructure development and livelihood generation along NW-1 (Ganga-Bhagirathi-Hooghly River System) and NW-2 (Brahmaputra River). With a whole-of-government approach and the ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas’ model of governance, India’s ‘water highways’ have become the backbone of rapid economic development and social inclusion.

The Maritime India Vision 2030 envisages increasing IWT cargo share to 5 per cent, surpassing 200 MTPA in volumes and accommodating over 700 million passengers by 2030. Recognising the immense socio-economic potential, the Government also increased the funds invested for developing NWs by 247 per cent, from 1,517 crore between 1986 to 2014, to investing over 5,200 crores between 2014 and 2023. This has led to the creation of over 51,000 new job opportunities.

We have prioritised 26 potential high-traffic National Waterways for phased development. Some of the key projects on NW-1 and NW-2 include multi-modal terminals at Varanasi, Sahibganj and Haldia, a navigational lock at Farakka, and passenger-cum-cargo jetties at Jogighopa, Bogibeel and Dibrugarh. A 22,000 crore mega waterways connectivity project is also under development for linking Kalinganagar, Talcher and other industrial clusters of Odisha via NW-64 (Mahanadi River) and NW-5 with Paradip and Dhamra Ports. Similar development works has been prioritised on NW-10 (Amba River) and NW-28 (Dabhol Creek-Vashishti River) in Maharashtra.

Ashta Lakshmi, the new growth engine of India

Under the Prime Minister’s visionary and dynamic leadership, India’s North Eastern Region has seen transformational growth in the last decade and is steadfastly moving towards becoming India’s new growth engine of the 21st century. To bring the region to the forefront, 20 North Eastern Region rivers were declared National Waterways in 2016 for holistic planning and infrastructure development. Significant investments are also being made to develop seamless road and rail connectivity, and other essential logistics infrastructure, including building the northeast’s first ship repair facility at Pandu port. This will greatly reduce the time and cost of repair for inland vessels plying on the Brahmaputra River.

Under the Prime Minister’s visionary and dynamic leadership, India’s North Eastern Region has seen transformational growth in the last decade and is steadfastly moving towards becoming India’s new growth engine of the 21st century

Further, two institutes have been established in 2023 to harness the potential of youth power — the Maritime Skill Centre for Northeast in Guwahati and the School of Logistics, Waterways, and Communication in Agartala. These institutes will tap into the immense talent pool and make India’s northeast a leading hub of sector research, education and training.

The Government is also working towards developing the Eastern Waterways Connectivity Transport Grid — a network of 5,000 km of navigable national and international waterways. We are also making fast progress in operationalising the Kaladan Multi-modal Transit Transport Project, offering alternative connectivity from India’s eastern coast to the north-eastern states through Myanmar’s Sittwe Port — which I inaugurated in May this year. These developments will enhance the integration of India’s northeast with ASEAN and BIMSTEC countries, accelerate regional growth, enhance people-to-people connections, and build deeper trade ties.

To showcase India’s huge maritime potential, the Ministry is hosting the 3rd Global Maritime India Summit 2023 from October 17th to 19th in Mumbai under the theme ‘connect – collaborate – create’. This edition brings together government and business leaders from 70+ countries and over 3,000 eminent delegates to deliberate on emerging maritime priorities and explore investment opportunities in India’s shipbuilding, ports, inland and coastal water transportation, maritime start-ups and other sectors. India goes full steam ahead towards the vision of a Vikasit Bharat.

(The writer is Union Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways and AYUSH, GoI)

(News Source -Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by Bhajpa Ki Baat staff and is published from a ks rss feed.)

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