Inland Water Transport in India and National Waterways

India draws a substantial network in terms of inland waterways in the form of rivers, canals, backwaters and creeks. India’s total navigable length is 14,500 km out of which about 5200 km of river and 4000 km of canals can be used by mechanised crafts. Freight transportation by waterways is still an underutilized resource across the country in comparison to other economies like United states, China and European union. When compared the total cargo moved (in tonne kilometres) by inland waterway was reported to be 0.1% of total inland traffic across the country.Cargo transportation in India is generally confined to a few waterways in Goa, West Bengal, Assam and backwaters of Kerala.

Inland Waterways Authority of India

Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) is the statutory body in charge of the waterways in India. Its headquarters is located in Noida, UP. Its main function is to build the necessary required infrastructure in these waterways, surveying the economic feasibility of new projects and also administration and regulation.

National Waterways

There are 14,500 kilometres (km) of navigable and potentially navigable inland waterways in the country of which the following six inland waterways have been declared as National Waterways:

  • National Waterway-1: Allahabad-Haldia stretch of the Ganga-Bhagirathi-Hooghly river (Total length-1620 km) in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal
  • National Waterway-2: Sadiya-Dhubri stretch of the Brahmaputra river (Total length-891 km) in the state of Assam
  • National Waterway-3: Kollam-Kottapuram stretch of West Coast Canal and Champakara and Udyogmandal canals (Total length-205 km) in the state of Kerala
  • National Waterway-4: (Total length-1027 km) in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry
  • National Waterway-5: (Total length- 588 km) in the states of West Bengal and Odisha
  • National Waterways 6: National Waterways 6 is a proposed waterway between Lakhipur and Bhanga of the Barak River with a length of 121 km. This was announced in Buget 2013-2014.

The Inland Waterways Authority of India will execute the project in two phases. The first will be completed by 2016-17 and the second by 2018-19, integrating the waterways in the northeast and helping cargo transport through Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh.

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