Amitabh Verma, IAS, Chairman, Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI)

In the sidelines of National Maritime Conclave 2017, he spoke to Media on various initiatives taken by IWAI to develop Inland Waterways in the country. Excerpts…

Rakesh Roy, Editor, Maritime World Services

Can you please thru more lights on your statement on the government’s plan to coming up religious tourism in India through River Cruise?

The Government has formed an expert committee to explore the potential of religious tourism in 17 cities of India viz. Kolkata, Murshidabad, Farakka, Buddhist Circuit in Patna, Bhagalpur, Debgarh, Varanasi, etc. A report prepared by the expert committee which has come out with a comprehensive plan includes upgradation of terminals in those places, traffic availability, tariff structure and the kind of vessels, etc. In line with the report, IWAI is planning in this direction and hopefully from next year onwards, people of India will see the success of religious tourism in the country. While the current government is committed to boost the infrastructure development of Inland Waterways in the country, private players will be invited for providing the transportation modes.

According to you, three more commercial projects are likely start from next month. Can you please elaborate more into it?

Dalmia Cement has agreed to move cement from Haldia upstream to Patna and different locations like Farakka, Sahibganj, Bhagalpur, Munger, etc through waterways. The project is likely commenced from February this year. The initial quantum would be 10,000 tonnes per month.

IFFCO, Paradip has approached IWAI for the transportation of phosphatic fertilizer from Paradip to Baharampur, near Farakka, by Inland Waterway. We require river sea vessel because costal movement will also be involved in that project. Currently, river sea vessels are not available in the Eastern Coast, thus we are talking to owners of river sea vessels from Western Coast.

One of the importers of Palm Olein in North East has approached IWAI for the transportation of Palm Olein from Kolkata to Guwahati which was earlier transported by road. IWAI will provide the requisite supply system for the transportation of 3000 tonnes of Palm Olein which is likely move through the Bangladesh protocol route to Guwahati.

IWAI started automotive transportation through waterways in last year. Please apprise us about the experiment and is IWAI planning to encourage on the same?

The experiment was carried out for the transportation of Maruti cars by our regular vessel which was the strength of 32 cars and it is very less. Therefore, we need to ensure that this kind of project to become more economical and financial profitable. IWAI has approached Germany’s DST to provide the right kind of vessels which has 3-decker car carrier and capacity of transporting 200-250 cars.

What are the other plans of IWAI to augment in developing inland waterways in India?

In giving the much-needed boost to the government’s ambitious SAGARMALA Project, IWAI is planning to raise cargo movement upto 22 million tonne by 2020 from current 7 million tonne. For that, we have requested Finance Minister to allocate 10% more financial budget in the 2017 Budget from last year Budget. IWAI also plans to develop 8 small waterways on rivers of Barak, Kosi, Ghaggar, Mandovi, Zuari, Sundarban, etc with a cost of USD 1.2 billion.

While the government is planning in a big way to develop Inland Waterways in the country, can you please share the safety aspects, regulation, etc in this regard?
The government has brought a new bill that includes separate chapters of casualties, accident, safety in Inland Waterways transportation. Central and State Governments have their own regulations for waterways transportation. For example; boats and vessels, which are not mechanised vessels and not come under Indian Vessel Act, have covered under Ferry Act which is administrated by State governments. Therefore, IWAI is planning to organise seminars, along with the State governments, to insure the upgradation of the existing country boats. IWAI has set up National Inland Navigation Institute (NINI) which is organizing training program for safety aspect in the Indian Waterways.