India to Develop Its First Modern Inland Waterway

The World Bank will support India with a $375 million loan in their plans to develop its first modern inland water transport fairway on a 1,360 km-stretch of the Ganga River between Varanasi and the seaport of Haldia.

The World Bank’s Board yesterday approved this loan loan to help the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) put in place the infrastructure and navigation services needed to develop the waterway, known as National Waterway 1, as an efficient logistics artery for northern India, while adopting the least intrusive methods of making the river navigable, the World Bank Group said in its latest release.

“Harnessing the mighty rivers of South Asia to build an effective multi-modal transport strategy will give the region a competitive edge on the global scene,” said Junaid Ahmad, World Bank Country Director for India.

“This project will allow India to move goods seamlessly between road, rail and water, and bring down logistics’ costs. Importantly, this Project will help IWAI put in place environmentally-sustainable strategies for inland navigation that can be replicated on other waterways in India and other countries.”

The loan will finance the construction of six multi-modal terminals, 10 ro-ro jetties, ship-repair facilities as well as passenger jetties along the river. It will also help modernize the ageing Farakka lock and add a new lock to allow for smoother passage of boats.

The project will also support the design and development of a new fleet of low-draft barges capable of carrying up to 2000 tonnes of cargo in these shallower depths.

Where needed, temporary structures (bandals) will be erected to provide additional sailing depth. In addition, the project has introduced an innovative ‘assured depth’ contract framework to incentivize minimal dredging by agencies responsible for keeping the fairway open for navigation.

These strategies have helped reduce the need for dredging in the navigation channel to only about 1.5 percent of the river’s annual silt load.

Even this limited dredging will only be done using modern, less intrusive technologies such as the water injection method which has the additional advantage of ensuring that sediments remain within the river’s ecosystem.

The $375 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), has a 7-year grace period, and a maturity of 17 years.

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