• India has 14500 km potential of inland waterways.
  • Water is a state subject, while the development and regulation of shipping and navigation comes under the jurisdiction of the Union government.
  • USA (21 percent), China, Japan and South Korea use more than 40 percent internal transport through inland water.
  • According to the Inland Waterways Authority of India, the development of National Waterways would require Rs 25,000 crore till 2022-2023.
Inland waterways in India:
  • India has an extensive network of inland waterways, but they are highly underutilized for freight transport.
  • The development of inland waterways has been effective in increasing the movement of cargo by about 13% in 2020-21, compared to 2019-20.
  • The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) says 25 of the 111 National Waterways (NWs) are fit for cargo and passenger traffic. Out of these 25, developmental activities are underway for 13.
Examine the advantages of waterways over road and  rail transport, and also examine how to make these waterways economically  viable for transportation of goods. (200 Words)
To ease growing  pressure on overburdened rail-road networks, we need to come up with an  integrated inter-modal system for haulage of goods & passengers. This will  call for exploiting the potential of various river stretches, lagoons and  estuaries for development of inland waterways.
Merits of waterways:
    1. Cheap: least capital intensive among all available systems of transport.
    2. Fuel efficient: for each HP of energy input, maximum load can be move over water than on road or rail.
    3. Environment friendly: carbon footprint of water transport is far below rail or road transport.
    4. Convenient: mode of transport for bulky, hazardous or odd sized cargo which is difficult to transport via roads and railways.
    5. Transit losses: are negligible during long interstate transits; such losses are more in other conventional modes of transport.
    6. Easier to obtain funding from international financial institutions like ADB, IBRD etc. which are inclined towards environment-friendly projects
    7. Potential to use 14,500 navigable water ways, currently India is using less than 5000 that too with not full capacity
    8. It can also give a boost to tourism.
    9. Linkages between the port to waterways will help in trade facilitation and industrial growth
    10. Large and wide rivers available in India especially in Northern India and potential to ease pressure on roads and railways
To make waterways  economically viable:
    1. Focus on an integrated logistics systems which allow cargo to be shifted from one mode of transport to another without disruption.
    2. Seasonality of water flows in many monsoons fed river systems poses a challenge; answer lies in developing barrages, canals, locks as per the need taking into the environmental constrain.
    3. Excessive silt carried by rivers may cause silting problems; so timely dredging operations are essential.
    4. Unidirectional traffic of bulk goods renders ventures in water transport unprofitable.
Related Questions:
    1. Enumerate the problems and prospects of inland water transport in India. (UPSC Mains 2016)

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