The Potential Of Inland Waterways of India


What is Inland waterways?

Inland waterway is a network in the form of rivers, canals, backwaters and creeks that can be used for transportation in place of or in addition to roads and rails.

Why Inland Waterways are Important?

Inland Waterways are the cheapest means of transport and are most suitable for carrying low cost heavy and bulky materials to long distances.

The cost of water transport in India is roughly 50 paise a kilometre, as compared to ₹1 by railways and ₹1.5 by roads. Water transport is receiving significant attention in recent times as logistics costs in India are some of the highest among major countries.

“India has an extensive network of inland waterways in the form of rivers, canals, backwaters and creeks. The total navigable length is 14,500 km (9,000 mi), out of which about 5,200 km (3,200 mi) of the river and 4,000 km (2,500 mi) of canals” – According to Wikipedia

Most of the inland waterways of India is unutilized. 

According to a report, The total cargo moved (in tonne-kilometres) by inland waterways was 0.1% of the total inland traffic in India, compared to the 21% figure for the United States.

In order to increases waterways in inland transport, Modi government got the National Waterways Act, 2016 passed which proposed 106 additional National Waterways. Inland waterways in India consist of the Ganges-Bhagirathi-Hooghly rivers, the Brahmaputra, the Barak river, the rivers in Goa, the backwaters in Kerala, inland waters in Mumbai and the deltaic regions of the Godavari-Krishna rivers.

Inland Waterways In india

The Government is working to develop inland waterways as an alternative mode of transport in the country, which is cleaner and cheaper than both road and rail transport. There are 111 National Waterways in the country today.

What Are The Advantages of Inland waterways?

  • Least transport cost for heavy and bulky cargos.
  • Capability of transporting large amount of cargos in one time from one destination to another.
  • A fuel efficient and environment friendly mode of transportation.
  • No need of huge investment for the infrastructure like other modes of transport and less annual cost for maintenance of river channels.
  • The cheapest means of transporting raw materials and finished goods of various industries along the river banks.
  • Increase in the employment in the marine sectors

List of Inland Waterways and National Waterways development

Vessels / TerminalsConstruction, Operation & MaintenanceGovernment AgenciesPublic Sector EnterprisesPrivate Sector Enterprises
WaterwayConstructing of waterwayIWAICIWTC in Sundarbans
WaterwayMaintenance of WaterwayIWAISubcontracted DredgingSubcontracted Dredging
WaterwayNavigational SupportIWAIPorts, near port areas GPS suppliers (KPT, Port of Panaji)
Vessel ManufacturingCIWTC, Hooghly Docks, Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers (GRSE)Several
Vessel ownershipIWAICIWTC/KSINCL and othersSeveral
Vessel maintenance/repairCIWTC/KSINCL and othersSeveral
Vessel OperationCIWTC/KSINCL and othersSeveral
Terminal constructionIWAI and State GovernmentMormugao Port Trust, CIWTCSeveral
Terminal operationMormugao Port TrustSeveral

Notes: IWAI – Inland Waterways Authority of India CIWTC – Central Inland Water Transport Corporation KSINCL– Kerala State Inland Navigation Company Limited


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