National waterways – A long route to conquer

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The Rajghat of Varanasi which is the first of the 90 ghats from the northern side got a new dimension today when Nitin Gadkari, Minister for Shipping, Road Transport and Highways, laid the foundation stone of the inland waterway terminal at Varanasi and flagged off the trial run of two cargo vessels from Varanasi to Haldia near Kolkata.

National Waterway-1 is a waterway which passes through Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. In Phase II, the project will reach Kanpur on the Ganga. Similar projects are being tested on the Brahmaputra and other rivers also.

Nitin gadkari inaugurated a Multi-Modal Terminal (MMT) AT Varanasi which will be a hub which can handle rail road and water ways transport. Not only that but the ministry has some big plans for using the Ganga river as one of the arterial waterways. 5 big MMTs are planned between Haldia and Varanasi and a couple of jetties are also being constructed. The pilot ship will be carrying 200 new Maruti Suzuki cars and other construction material from Varanasi to Kolkata.

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Gadkari had already stated for this in BJP’s national executive meet and he believes that the waterways are the new frontier to bring down the logistical cost. In India the logistic cost is 18 percent which is much higher than of developed nations like USA and China who have 8-12 percent as their logistical cost.
BJP’s leadership had been claiming this since past few months that the cost of ferrying goods via waterways is as low as 30-50 paise per kilometer per tonne which is much lower than the cost of hauling goods by road.

In order to make this waterway operational within a year, a 7000 crore project had been cleared which will also include dredging at several points. The dredging will be done in order to maintain a 3 meter draft in the river throughout the year.

The BJP leadership hopes to ensure that at least seven percent of India’s goods traffic is moved by waterways as at present only 3.6 percent of good traffic is carried on rivers. The Terminal in Varanasi will complete likely in August 2018 and will cost 170 crore. It will have both rail and road connectivity with proposed links on NH-7 and Jeewnathpur railway station in Chandauli district of UP.

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On completion of phase 1 the cargo hanling capacity is estimated to be 1.2 million metric tonnes per annum (MTPA). The cargo that will be handled at the terminal includes stone chips, cement, food grains, fertilizers, sugar etc.

The terminal will also have facilities including berthing space for two vessels simultaneously, storage area, transit shed, parking areas etc. It will also have a floating jetty for passenger transportation.

The project includes the development of fairway, construction of new MMTs at Varanasi, Haldia, and Sahebganj in Jharkhand, strengthening of open river navigation system, conservancy works, modern River Information System (RIS), Digital Global Positioning System (DGPS), night navigation facilities, modern methods of channel marking, construction of a new state of the art navigational lock at Farakka etc.

Amitabh Kumar, Director of National Waterways Corporation limited told us “At present we can ferry the ships only for 315 days, but we are making arrangements to ferry them in water level with a depth of 2.5 meters and 3 meters. We had made necessary arrangements for that and hopefully we will be able to ferry the ships for all 365 days by June 2017.”

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But this is not all, unlike all other flagship programs of modi government, this was also not taken well by the SP ruled state government. The ships were standing for a couple of weeks before today’s event as a long stretch of the Ganga in Varanasi is declared as Tortoise century. And due to that the heavy vessels are not allowed to move in the ganges.

None of the concerned state government officials responded to our queries today.
Dr Bishambhar nath Mishra of the Sankat Mochan Foundation says “Unlike their Namami Gange Project, this is also going to be another gimmick, they do not want to go the roots of the problems and Ganga is not clean till now neither it has flow, they are saying that they will do dredging but I am not sure how these heavy vessels will pass when the water level is low.”

UPCC state vice president Dr Rajesh Mishra told us “ another wastage of public money in the name of waterways, till date they are not thinking of maintaining the flow of the Ganges and they are trying to make us fool by doing this during monsoon when the water level is automatically higher”.
BJP needs to evaluate the flagship projects with the ground realities as this waterways project has some shortcomings which can be a menace in the upcoming months.

 

Report by Utpal Pathak from wefornews

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