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Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal Reviews Inland Waterways Progress and Unveils Ambitious Development Plans

Noida: T Union Minister of Ports, Shipping, and Waterways, Sarbananda Sonowal, visited the Noida Head Office of the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) today. During his visit, Sonowal was briefed on the status of the 111 National Waterways and the emerging role of inland waterways as a sustainable transportation mode complementing roadways and railways.

Interacting with senior IWAI officials, the Minister emphasized the development of national waterways to significantly increase passenger and freight movement. He praised the efforts to promote river cruise tourism and recent initiatives such as the introduction of Hybrid Electric Catamaran vessels and the country’s first Hydrogen Vessel.

Sonowal reviewed the progress of the World Bank-funded Jal Marg Vikas Project (JMVP) on National Waterway (NW) 1 – River Ganga. The Authority is enhancing waterways infrastructure by constructing Multi-Modal Terminals at Varanasi, Sahibganj, and Haldia, and an Inter-Modal Terminal at Kalughat to facilitate freight movement and improve connectivity. Additionally, IWAI is installing community jetties to benefit communities residing along the banks of the river Ganga.

“MoPSW is committed towards developing a robust inland water transport system. By enhancing India’s national waterways, MoPSW and IWAI aim to boost economic growth and ensure efficient, sustainable transportation options for the nation, in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of a ‘New India’ with world-class infrastructure,” said Sonowal.

During the interaction at IWAI, the minister unveiled a five-year action plan for developing new national waterways. This plan emphasizes river cruises through targeted campaigns and events to boost tourism. Collaboration with Northeastern Region (NER) states was highlighted, with a robust mechanism in place to ensure effective CSS project implementation. Addressing human resource issues, the minister discussed overcoming challenges in the Indo-Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) route and proposed innovative solutions for expediting Inland Water Transport (IWT) work in Goa, Maharashtra, and Gujarat, leveraging technology and inter-state cooperation to enhance national infrastructure.

Sonowal also assessed the Authority’s interventions to promote IWT activities in the North Eastern Region, particularly NW 2, 16, and 31 i.e., Brahmaputra, Barak, and Dhansiri rivers in Assam. Initiatives to improve regional connectivity with neighboring countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, and Myanmar were also evaluated. Technological advancements by IWAI, such as the PANI – Portal for Assets and Navigational Information, RIS – River Information System, and CAR-D for cargo and cruise movement data, were showcased to the Union Minister.

As a symbol of growth and prosperity, Shri Sonowal planted a sapling in the premises of IWAI, joined by Vijay Kumar, Chairman, IWAI, R. Lakshmanan, Joint Secretary (IWT) MoPSW, Sunil Kumar Singh, Vice Chairman, IWAI, and other senior officials.

The cargo movement on national waterways has increased to over 133 million tons, recording a CAGR growth of 22.1% from FY 2014 to FY 2024. IWAI aims to increase the modal share of freight movement through IWT from 2% to 5% and traffic volume to more than 200 MMT in line with the Maritime India Vision 2030, and over 500 MMT by 2047 as per the Maritime Amrit Kaal Vision 2047. These vision documents, formulated by the Ministry of Ports, Shipping & Waterways, aim to promote inland water transport as a sustainable transportation mode in the country.

To enable inland waterways as conduits of economic growth and commerce, an investment of ₹45,000 crore has been planned for the development of river cruise tourism by 2047, with ₹35,000 crore earmarked for cruise vessels and ₹10,000 crore for cruise terminal infrastructure. An additional investment of ₹15,200 crore, determined at the Global Maritime India Summit (GMIS) held in Mumbai in October 2023, aims to enhance inland waterways for cargo trade, potentially increasing the volume to 500 Million Tonnes Per Annum (MTPA) by 2047. The Harit Nauka Guidelines demonstrate MoPSW’s commitment to promoting passenger transport through waterways in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner by adopting low-emission fuels (CNG/LNG/electric/hydrogen/methanol) for inland vessel operations.

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