Minister of shipping and road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari who is on a study tour of the world's most commercially viable inland waterways system of the Mississippi river, on Friday said he is looking at ways to implement a similar project in India.
With 40,000 km of navigable waterways, the Mississippi inland waterways system covers almost the entire North America.
Gadkari exchanged views on the land port operations with the St Louis Port authorities, assessing the feasibility of similar arrangements in making the Ganga river waterways navigable in an effective and commercially viable manner.
Gadkari undertook a boat ride and witnessed effective lock-based system along with senior officials of his ministry. He was highly impressed with the barrages and the manner in which the authorities have been able to keep navigation cost effective, something which he plans to do in India.
Gadkari took keen interest in the mechanism of regular dredging of the river and maintenance of its freight barges through a system of locks. He was told that the principal value of the inland waterways was its ability to efficiently convey large volumes of bulk commodities over long distances.
Gadkari examined the towboats pushing barges lashed together to form a big tow as an extremely efficient mode of transportation, moving about 22,500 tonnes of cargo as a single unit. A single 15-barge tow is equivalent to about 225 railway freight wagons or 870 tractor-trailer trucks. If the cargo transported on the Mississippi inland waterways each year had to be moved by another mode, it would take an additional 6.3 million rail cars or 25.2 million trucks to carry the load, the officials told Gadkari.
In the context of the inland waterways in India, Gadkari said the ability to move more cargo per shipment will make barge transport both fuel efficient and environmentally advantageous. Carbon dioxide emissions from water transportation will be much less as compared with rail transportation.
Inland waterways will thus allow tremendous savings in fuel consumption, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, reduced traffic congestion, fewer accidents on railway and highways and less noise and disruption in cities and towns. He said that barges, when built in India, will help the movement of large quantities of bulk commodities and raw material like coal, petroleum, stones, sand and gravels used in road and highway building and food grains at relatively low cost.
Gadkari further said that like in the US, the central government will manage the inland waterways in India. We can maintain a draft of two and half to three meters as in the Mississippi river inland waterways. Indian river waterways can be operational all round the year unlike in the US where they remain closed for some time during a year.