The Inland Waterways Authority of India, under the Ministry of Ports, Shipping, and Waterways (MoPSW), is set to host the inaugural ‘Inland Waterways Development Council’ meeting on January 8, 2023, in Kolkata. The day-long meeting on board the vessel MV Ganga Queen, by Shri Sarbananda Sonowal, Union Minister of Ports, Shipping & Waterways and AYUSH, will bring together key figures from across the waterways states and central government including Shri Shripad Naik and Shri Shantanu Thakur, Ministers of State for Ports, Shipping & Waterways. The event will also see the participation of Ministers from various State Governments, accompanied by their Principle Secretaries/Secretaries, alongside numerous senior officers of the Central Government and domain experts in the field.
The Minister of Ports, Shipping, and Waterways & AYUSH, Shri Sarbananda Sonowal, will also unveil groundbreaking initiatives, including “Harit Nauka – Guidelines for Green Transition of Inland Vessels” and the “River Cruise Tourism Roadmap 2047,” during the meeting. Additionally, the event anticipates the signing of several Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs), marking collaborative efforts towards advancing the inland waterways and associated sectors.
The inaugural IWDC meeting boasts a packed agenda with consecutive sessions addressing vital issues in the development of inland waterways in India. The sessions encompass topics such as fairway development, private sector engagement and best practices, optimizing cargo transport efficiency in Inland Water Transport (IWT), fostering the promotion and development of eco-friendly vessels for passenger transportation, exploring the economic advantages of river cruise tourism, and emphasizing sustainable practices, among others.
It is to be noted that Ministry has set a bold objective to elevate the modal share of Inland Water Transportation (IWT) from the current 2% to 5%, aligning with the goals outlined in the Maritime India Vision 2030. Furthermore, as part of the ambitious Maritime Amrit Kaal Vision 2047, the ministry aims to substantially increase the existing IWT cargo volume from approximately 120 MTPA to over 500 MTPA, signifying a significant leap forward in the development of inland waterways in the country.
In the state of 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 successfully completed, while 43 projects, totaling around Rs. 15 thousand Crores, are at various stages of implementation. Among these initiatives, 11 projects, with a 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.
Noteworthy achievements include the successful improvement of road connectivity, facilitating port and trade users, and the Rs. 47 Crore project for the upgradation of tracks at the EJC yard of Kolkata Port, resulting in enhanced 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 the 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 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.