The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) was set up in 1986 though five National Waterways (NW) have remained designated for several years, only recently progress has been visible on developing a sustainable water transport system in key rivers and inland waters across the country in an attempt to minimize pressure on rail and roadways furthermore guaranteeing reduction in emission and logistics costs.
Union Government in 2014 announced the NW1 project of Rs. 5369 crore traversing of 1,400 kms from Allahabad to Haldia on the river Ganga that would come up with the technical and financial assistance of the World Bank (WB). Capacitating movement of freight on vessels up to 1,500 to 2,000 tons is the primary objective.
An additional 106 waterways were affirmed by the Government as NWs creating a total of 111 NWs ensuring passage of the National Waterways Act 2016.
Mr. Pravir Pandey Vice Chairman, IWAI in an interview expressed buoyancy and gave an update on NW projects. Edited excerpts:
- What is the overall plan for NW1?
The detailed study took 18 months to prepare. Three multi-modal terminals are under construction with railway and road connectivity at Varanasi (U.P), Sahibganj in Jharkhand and Haldia in Bengal as well as the construction of a new navigation lock at Farakka.
Since rail rakes carry 2,200 tons of cargo, vessels with the capacity of 1,500 to 2,000 tons will be operated to provide commercial and competitiveness for customers. Only then a shift will arise.
A minimum of three-metre depth/draft between October to April is required to transport a 2,000 ton barge. In the initial phase a 1,400km channel consisting of a width of 45 metres and a minimum draft of 3 metres from Varanasi to Haldia to enable smooth transportation of two vessels.
DST Germany has been engaged to design ships. To begin with, they will design car carriers having a capacity to carry 300 cars and these vessels would necessitate 1.5 metres water depth.
The objective is to design special vessels that run on low draft but carry high capacity. This is a challenge and avoidance of dredging in rivers. As for concerned environmentalists, LNG-powered vessels are being designed by DST Germany.
A trial run was conducted in August last year from Varanasi to Kolkata in which only 32 Maruti cars were transported in six days. Maruti indicated that transportation rates reduced by Rs. 3,800 per car.
Ro-Ro (Roll-on/Roll-off) Vessels are being launched to carry 18 to 20 trucks enabling them to avoid traffic jams on old congested bridges and arrive destinations faster. At present Ro-Ro services are provided in Sahebganj and Manihari sectors. 10 other places have been identified for implementation; Buxar, Varanasi, Ghazipur, Patna, Munger, Bhagalpur, Manihari, Sahebganj and Haldia.
A consortium is assessing the environmental impact while our consultant Hamburg Port is recommending market development, traffic projection and cargo analysis.
Our engineering consultants Hawaii Engineering and HR Wallingford U.K have already submitted the all-inclusive engineering report.
State Governments have requested development of ferry services at numerous congested cities like that of Kolkata, Varanasi and Patna to release pressure of traffic on roads. 18 locations in 6 cities have been identified by NW1 to provide ferry services. In this project, Massachusetts Institute of Technology U.S and Thompson Design Group will be involved. The introduction of both longitudinal and cross river ferry services to decongest urban municipal transport will take place.
- What has been achieved so far?
Quite a lot of progress has been achieved, this is one of the fastest growing infrastructural projects in the country at present. Announced in July 2014 with only a concept, today Afcons has already begun construction of the multi-modal terminal at Varanasi.
The Sahebganj multi-modal terminal is under construction by L&T. L&T is also working on the Farakka Navigation Lock which is a complicated engineering encounter. It has been designed by SB Belgium, work has taken off on the ground. ITD Cementation has been awarded the Haldia multi-modal terminal. Coastal Zone Regulation clearance has just been received for this. Dredging awards will be given in the next couple of months and dredging is set to being by February and March.
Once vessels start moving we will set up Vessel Tracking and Monitoring System to prevent accidents of these vessels. Development of a River Information System is being set up. Similar to air traffic controllers at airports, river traffic controllers are being developed which will share information about rivers and movement of vessels.
- How viable is this project?
Even though NWs are still being developed, the NW1 is economically viable. Only 5% of the project cost is being spent with reference to land acquisition unlike highway projects where more than 50% of the project is spent on land acquisition and compensation packages.
In order to make the project viable without increasing the tariff, we will lease out land for setting up warehousing, tourism or cold-storage facilities to private parties. Some land at our terminals and jetties are being acquired for this purpose. Users pay only paisa per ton per kilometer and we will not raise it.
- How much money has been invested?
Monetary funds is not an issue, payment will be made as per the bills, projects worth 1,700crore has already been granted and projects have started.
- When will the project be completed?
The expected year is 2021 yet vessels could start transportation before that. Movement of vessels has already begun on the trail run. Once the car carriers and LNG powered vessels are functional we will start moving vessels with whatever facilities available by 2019.
- What is IWAI’s fund-raising programme?
In view of the progress accomplished, the ministry of finance has granted raising Rs. 1,000crore from the market through infrastructure bonds. This subject will start in February 2017, besides we have signed MoUs with port trusts to jointly develop NWs which would enable circulation to them.
- After NW1, have you started incremental work on other NWs?
111 waterways have already been declared. In the first phase 32 waterways found to be completely viable will be developed.
Those included are NW2 (Sadiya-Dhubri stretch on river Brahmaputra with a length of 891 km), NW16 (Lakhipur- hanga stretch of river Barak (121km), NW6 (Lakhipur to Bhanga of river Barak in Assam with a distance of 121km), NW4 (the Kakinada- Puducherry canals along the Godavari and Krishna rivers in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry with a total length of 1,078km), Nw5 (the Brahmani river and Mahandi delta rivers, integrated with East Coast Canal in Bengal and Odhisa, with a total length of 588km), NW3 (the West Coast Canal between Kottapuram and Kollam (168km) together with the Udyogmandal canal (23km) and the Champakkara canal (14km) in Kerela with a total length of 205km).
Simultaneously work is being carried out on all these projects. A budget has been asked for and we are creating funds for these.
On the NW2 construction of a permanent Rollon-Rolloff also known as Ro-Ro terminal at Dhubri is in headway. Development of another terminal will take place at Hatsingimari located on the opposite bank of river Brahmaputra.
A project for the formation of a slipway at Pandu to facilitate dry docking repair has been approved and execution is underway, this is estimated to be completed by December 2018.
On the NW4 stretch between Muktyala to Vijayawada is being planned for instantaneous operation for which dredging work is required to remove shallow patches which is being carried out. As for NW5, an MoU has been signed between IWAI and Paradip Port Trust for this projects development.
- What is the investment plant for the 32 rivers?
As per the estimate the total budget is Rs. 12,000 crore. The Ganga project is separate.