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Govt. to look seriously to inland waterways network: FIEO

As roads and rails have seen increasing congestion nearing maximum capacity, leading to lost time and money, increasingly harming the environment through pollutants, its high time for India to look seriously to the inland waterways network as the solution to alleviating infrastructural problems, the apex body for Indian export promotion said Tuesday.

According to M Rafeeque Ahmed, President, Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO), the inland waterway system of India stands unexploited, which if optimized, could help eliminating congestion, pollution and provide a low cost alternative to movement of cargo which in turn reduce the cost of products 4 to 6 percent. This initiative will not only help Indian products to be competitive, but also have impact on domestic prices.

While highlighting the issues of Inland Water System, FIEO President suggests that steps should be taken for introduction of fully integrated water transport with the inter-modal transport system. The technology, procedures, economics, political and social considerations– there are multiple technical as well as infrastructural problems which needs to be addressed in order to improve the inland waterway system and to integrate it with land based transportation.

FIEO Chief urges the Government for policy initiatives to encourage container shipping that allows major ports to connect with minor ports which, in turn, will connect the inland waterways. According the estimates, the cost of developing inland waterways would be a mere 5 to 10 percent of the cost of developing an equivalent four-lane highway or railways in India.

Nearly 90 percent of the country’s international trade by volume is carried by sea. However, the use of inland water transportation is less than 0.5 percent. Accordingly to a study, one litre of fuel can move 105 tonne a km in Inland Water System as against 85 tonne by rail and 24 tonne by road. Hence development of the system will lead to huge cost cutting. 

Highlighting the potential of the Water Transport for improvement of India’s infrastructure in lesser time and money, Ahmed says that compared to 7500 Kms of coastline, India has 14,500 Kms of Navigable inland waterways. FIEO Chief also urge Ports, especially minor private ports to play a catalytic role in coastal shipping development. 

To highlight these issues and suggest remedial measures, FIEO is joining with Kerala Sea & Trade in organizing a National event titled "Costal Shipping and Inland Water Transport Summit" at Kochi on 6th May.