India’s inland waterways service is set to get a big boost with the Centre inking a deal with Infrastructure Architecture Lab of Massachusetts Institute of Technology for developing ferry services at 18 locations across six cities.
All the cities – Allahabad, Varanasi, Patna, Munghyr, Kolkata and Haldia – are located on National Waterways-1, the longest waterway in India. The 1620 km long waterway runs from Haldia in Sagar to Allahabad across three rivers – Ganga, Bhagirathi and Hooghly.
Though India has a 7500 km long coastline with approximately 14,500 km of navigable waterways, it has not been able to harness the potential to the fullest. A minuscule 3.5 % of trade is done through waterways in India as against 47% in China, 40% in Europe and 35% in neighbouring Bangladesh.
Also, compared to road and rail, water transport is the least expensive. While carrying cargo by road and rail costs Rs 1.5 per km and Rs 1 per km respectively, it costs only 25 paisa per km by waterways.
“Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) under the shipping ministry has entered into a contract with a joint venture of Thompson Design Group, Boston (USA) and Infrastructure Architecture Lab of Massachusetts Institute of Technology for identifying suitable locations for construction of 18 ferry terminals in six cities,” said an IWAI official.
The consultants will also prepare detailed project report and tender documents for the 18 terminals. Thompson Design Group and MIT’s Infrastructure Architecture has earlier worked on similar transport solutions for Navy Pier in Chicago and Buffalo Bayou in Texas.
The consultants will identify the best locations within the specific regulatory, planning and investment framework of the cities. During the course of identifying suitable locations for the terminal, the consultants will take into account commercial and passenger characteristic of each city with a goal of integrating transportation networks and facilities to each city.
The government is developing NW-1 under the Jal Marg Vikas Project with technical and financial assistance of the World Bank at an estimated cost of Rs 5369 crore. The project would enable commercial navigation of vessels with capacity of 1500-2,000 tonne.
Phase-I of the project covers the Haldia-Varanasi stretch. The project includes development of fairway, Multi-Modal Terminals at Varanasi, Haldia, and Sahibganj, strengthening of river navigation system, conservancy works, modern river information system, night navigation facilities, etc.