Mumbai: The government, after three failed attempts, is hopeful of introducing the Inland Waterways Bill, which seeks to convert 101 rivers across the country into waterways, in the upcoming winter session of Parliament.
"We have failed thrice to introduce the Bill. But now, I am confident we will be able to introduce it this session," Union Minister for Waterways, Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari said at an Indo-US event here today.
Waterways is expected propel economic growth as it's a cheaper mode to transport cargo. "With this objective in mind, we have set a target of converting 101 rivers into waterways. We will also start preparing the draft detailed project report for the rivers and expect it to be completed by this December-end," he said.
Waterways are the top-most priority of the ministry as it will not only ease the burden from road and rail network, but is also cost-effective and eco-friendly, the Minister said. "The total transportation cost through waterways comes to barely 30 paise per km against Re 1 per km through railway and Rs 1.5 per km through road. Unfortunately, this mode of transport is yet to be tapped in our country," he said.
The work on the 1,620-km stretch between Varanasi and Haldia, he said further, under the Clean Ganga mission will start by this year-end. "We have already acquired the land near the banks of Varanasi and Haldia. We hope to start the dredging work by December-end," Gadkari said.
The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) has prepared a Rs 4,200-crore project to be executed with the World Bank's assistance to remove silt from the Ganga between Varanasi and Haldia to develop "integrated riverwater freight corridor" with road and rail links at crucial points.
The government has drawn up a Rs 400-crore project, under which the Centre will provide a subsidy of 50 per cent to states to build floating jetties.
"We have sent a proposal to state governments that if they wish to develop floating jetties, the Centre will provide subsidies to the extent of 50 per cent. For passenger jetties, this subsidy will be Rs 10 crore while for container and goods jetties, it will be restricted to Rs 25 crore," he added.