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Special Content

Issue no 42, 14- 20 January 2023

Jal Marg Vikas Project Strengthening the Inland Waterways of India

Ganga Vilas, the world's longest river cruise, is a big boost to India's aim of becoming an attractive cruise tourism destination with the state-of-the[1]art infrastructural and other facilities. The cruise route from Varanasi to Dibrugarh via Bangladesh covers 27 river systems in India in a span of over 50 days.

Throughout the journey, the passengers aboard the cruise will travel across 50 significant tourist destinations. Facilitating the cruise operations is the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) which is a statutory body set up in 1986 through the Inland Waterways Authority of India Act, 1985. Developed under the Jal Marg Vikas Project (JMVP) which is being implemented under the technical & financial assistance of the World Bank, this initiative is an effort to revive the inland waterways of India.

Inland Waterways in India

India is bestowed with innumerable rivers, lakes, canals, backwaters and reservoirs. Some of the rivers are extensively long and perennial, while others are comparatively short and seasonal. These rivers, lakes, canals, backwaters and reservoirs primarily constitute the source for inland waterways in India.

Navigable waterways are a fuel-efficient, environment friendly and cost-effective mode of transport. Water transport is also a safe, cheap and lower carbon footprint mode of transport. A developed transport system enables optimum cost of transportation in a multimodal network utilising strengths of all modes on a case to case basis. In these corridors, inland waterways can be developed with navigational channels of specified dimensions for making them commercially viable to promote cost effective, environment friendly and fuel efficient modes of transport, especially for bulk goods, hazardous cargo and over dimensional cargo. Apart from cargo transportation, waterways can be used for tourism purposes, cruise operation, water sports activities etc. They will also enhance across the river connectivity of various remote villages by providing better and safer navigation.

With the aim to provide seamless linkage between rail[1]road-river transportation and for the capacity augmentation of navigation on National Water[1]way-1 (NW-1), Jal Marg Vikas Project (JMVP) is being implemented. Capacity augmentation of navigation in inland waterways means creating conditions in the fairway channel of an inland waterway through appropriate interventions in such a way that vessels of higher capacity can move on the fairway. This results in movement of large quantities of goods and passengers, with minimum congestion and in a short time span. Jal Marg Vikas Project (JMVP) for capacity augmentation of navigation on National Waterway-1 (NW-1) is being implemented at a cost of Rs 5,369.18 crore of with the World Bank. The Project is expected to be completed by March 2023.

What makes waterways a commercially viable mode of transportation?

a) Development of fairway or navigation channel with targeted depth and width for the passage of optimum size of cargo vessels.

b) Providing navigation aids for round-the-clock safe navigation.

c) Construction of terminals/ ports/jetties for berthing of vessels, loading/unloading of cargo, warehouses/storage places, boarding and lodging facilities, etc.

d) Providing connectivity to the terminals with rail and road networks.

e) A robust marketing strategy to ensure both upstream and downstream movement of cargo.

What are the major environ[1]mental, social and economic benefits from development of inland waterways for transport?

The following major benefits are expected from development of inland waterways for transport:

i.                    It is a non-water consumptive transportation project with minimal resource depletion that will facilitate reduction of pressure on Railway Network and Road Network, relieving congestion, reduced emissions from vehicles and railway engines on non[1]electrified routes, thereby reducing carbon emission.

ii.                  Transportation through waterways does not involve huge land acquisition except in few places where terminals are likely to be constructed. In comparison to other infrastructure projects, it is almost negligible that results in insignificant impact on ecology & biodiversity, agricultural activities as well as on the livelihood of the people.

iii.                Improved river flow due to improvement / augmentation of navigation facilities will in turn benefit aquatic flora and fauna.

iv.                Increase in economic opportunities in the form of employment and business opportunities (both in relation to cargo movement and peripheral petty business activities).

v.                  Access to local communities in the form of a mode of transport to conduct activities on both sides of the river. Better water flow through maintenance of minimum water levels will provide for better fish production and catch, which in turn will directly enable enhanced income for the fishing communities along the river stretch.

Goal of JMVP:

·         Alternative mode of transport that will be environment friendly and cost effective. The project will contribute in bringing down the logistics cost in the country. The development objective of the First Capacity Augmentation of the National Waterway Project for India is to enhance transport efficiency and reliability of national waterway 1 (NW-1) and augment institutional capacity for the development and management of India's inland waterway transport system in an environmentally sustainable manner. The JMVP will result in an environment-friendly, fuel[1]efficient and cost-effective alternative mode of transportation, especially for bulk goods, hazardous goods and over-dimensional cargo.

·         Mammoth Infrastructure development like multi[1]modal and inter-modal terminals, Roll on - Roll off (Ro-Ro) facilities, ferry services, navigation aids. Construction of multimodal terminals at Varanasi, Sahibganj and Haldia have been envisioned in two phases. The NW-1 along with the proposed Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor and NH-2 constitute the Eastern Transport Corridor of India connecting the National Capital Region (NCR) with the eastern and north[1]eastern states. Additionally, they will function as a link to Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Nepal and other East and Southeast Asian countries through the Kolkata Port and Indo-Bangladesh Protocol Route.

·         Socio-economic impetus; huge employment generation. The JMVP envisages large investment and employment opportunities in the four states through which the NW-1 will pass. With its inherent advantage of being low-cost and environment[1]friendly, inland waterways transportation will now pave the way for reducing the uses of fossil fuel by introducing zero emission hydrogen fuel cell passenger catamaran vessel in Kashi (Varanasi). Additionally, NW-1 develop[1]ment & operations has been considered to generate 46,000 direct employment and 84,000 indirect employment.

Major Components: Fairway Development; Construction of the multi-modal terminal at Varanasi; Construction of the multi-modal terminal at Sahibganj; Construction of the multi-modal terminal at Haldia; Construction of an inter-modal terminal at Kalughat; Construction of an inter-modal terminal at Ghazipur; Construction of a new navigation lock at Farakka; Provision of navigational aids; Construction of five pairs of Roll on-Roll off (Ro[1]Ro) terminals; Construction of Integrated Ship Repair and Maintenance Complexes; Provision of River Information System (RIS) and Vessel Traffic Management System (VTMS); and Bank Protection works.


JVMP has facilitated an alternative mode of transport that is environment friendly and cost effective. The project is contributing in bringing down the logistics cost in the country. Mammoth Infrastructure development like multi-modal and inter-modal terminals, Roll on - Roll off (Ro-Ro) facilities, ferry services, navigation aids are also part of the project, which has resulted in socio-economic impetus and huge employment generation.

Of the three multimodal terminals planned to be built on river Ganga under JMVP, the one at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and Sahibganj in Jharkhand are already operational. Work on the third multimodal terminal at Haldia and a new Navigation Lock at Farakka (both in West Bengal) is in full swing.

In UP, jetties are being developed on a 250 km stretch between Varanasi and Ballia. The jetties equipped with all passenger and administrative amenities will enable the movement of freight and passengers across the river resulting in time and cost savings. Operational jetties can boost small-scale industries, enhance the region's cultural heritage, and generate employment opportunities that benefit communities. The focus on the development of inland water[1]ways will help standardise development and operation, leading to better facilities and improvement in livelihood for local communities.

Under the Jal Marg Vikas Project-II (JMVP-II), also known as 'Arth Ganga', IWAI is develop-ing/upgrading 62 small community jetties along the river Ganga. These include 15 in Uttar Pradesh, 21 in Bihar, 3 in Jharkhand and 23 in West Bengal.

Which are the National Waterways operational or under process of development?

Five National Water-ways are operational or under the process of development:

i)                    Allahabad-Haldia stretch on the Ganga-Bhagirathi[1]Hooghly river system in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, with a length of 1,620 Km (declared National Waterway No.1 in 1986).

ii)                   Sadiya-Dhubri stretch on River Brahmaputra in the state of Assam, with a length of 891 Km. (declared Natio[1]nal Waterway No.2 in 1988).

iii)                Kottapuram-Kollam stretch of the West Coast Canal, along with Udyogmandal and Champakara Canals in the state of Kerala, with a total length of 205 Km (declared National Waterway No.3 in 1993).

iv)                Kakinada- Puducherry canals along with Godavari and Krishna rivers in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Union Territory of Puducherry, with a total length of 1,078 Km. (declared National Waterway No. 4 in 2008).

v)                  Brahmani river and Mahanadi delta rivers, integrated with East Coast Canal in the states of West Bengal and Odisha, with a total length of 588 Km. (declared National Waterway No. 5 in 2008).

Compiled By: Annesha Banerjee and Anuja Bhardwajan

Source: PIB/jmvp.nic. in/sagarmala.gov.in/iwai.nic.in