India: 12th Plan Includes Dredging
The fact that national waterways ways found a mention in the Budget speech of Finance Minister P. Chidambaram is in itself significant.
Sadly, though, it did not throw light on allocations or specific plans the Government is mulling to develop this sector, a move that could lead to substantial savings in transportation costs. Chidambaram announced that the Ministry of Water Resources would move a bill in Parliament to declare a stretch of river Barak in Assam as the sixth National Waterways, ports and roads.
For example, the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Sundarbans river system has the potential to be integrated with Haldi-Kolkata ports, while the Krishna-Godavari-Buckingham canal can be linked to Chennai Port.
“The 12th Plan has adequate outlay for capital works, including dredging, on the national waterways,” he said.
Waterways could be made into an efficient artery of transportation of food – grains, fertilizer, coal, cement and other similar cargoes. Cargo transportation through the waterways has increased from 32 million tonnes in 2003-04 to about 70 mt last fiscal. Inland water transport accounts for a share of 20 per cent of Germany’s total transported cargo. It is 14 per cent in the US and nine in China, compared to a measly 0.5 per cent in India.
In the current plan, an amount of Rs 1500 crore has been proposed for the Indland Waterways Authority.
But, the Finance Minister, in his Budget speech, did not specify the allocation, saying there is “adequate outlay”. In fact, a working group had recently a fund requirement of Rs 10, 500 crore, including Rs 5, 320 crore through private investment, for meaningful development of this sector.
Press Release, March 11, 2013