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Considering the importance of Inland Water Transport (IWT) as an alternative and supplementary mode of transport and its potential in the country (14500 Kms of navigable waterways), Government of India have finalised the Inland Water Transport Policy framework which, among other things, envisages that the private sector is actively involved in its development. With a view to give wide publicity and involve various stake holders, namely, the State Governments, concerned ministries/organisations of Govt. of India, public sector undertakings, private sector companies, shippers, vessel builders and operators, banks and financial institutions, etc, it was decided to hold Interactive Meets on Development of Inland Water Transport at various places in the country.
In pursuance to this, the National Level Meet was held at New Delhi on 8th June, 2001 followed by the first Regional Meet at Patna on 16th July, 2001 and the second one was held at Avenue Centre, Kochi on 4th August, 2001. Sh. O. Rajagopal, Hon'ble Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and Railways, Government of India, was the Chief Guest and he inaugurated the meet. Professor K. V . Thomas, Hon 'ble Minister for Tourism and Fisheries, Government of Kerala was honoured Special Guest.


The response from the Government of Kerala, the public sector undertakings based in and around Kerala, private sector companies, vessel builders, vessel operators, Boat Owners' Association, financial institutions, traders, etc. was overwhelming and the hall with the capacity of 300 persons was fully packed. The participants from places as far as Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi etc. participated in the Meet. All the participants from Government, Semi- Government as well as the private sector were very enthusiastic about development ofNW-3. 
The participants from tourism sector, both in Government and private sector, were equally keen for development of waterway based tourism along NW-3 as Kerala's rich culture provides vast and varied potential for development of tourism related activities. Both electronic and print media covered the entire event. There was positive and constructive repo11ing by the print media before and after the meet. This contributed to the general awareness of the public about IWT. The list of participants is at annexure -' A '.


Welcoming the delegates, Shri M Ramachandran, Joint Secretary (Shipping) stated that the cargo movement by IWT was less than 1 % of the total inland cargo in the country. Rest of the cargo was being transported by road and rail. He emphasised the need for development of IWT, which is an eco-friendly and cost effective mode and should be developed as an alternate mode of transport in the country to reduce ever increasing pressure on rail and road sectors. Since, India has vast IWT potential, it can playa significant role in augmenting the transport infrastructure in the country. He invited suggestions from the participants to enable the Govt. to formulate policy for intermodel transport mix so that advantages of lWT could be exploited. 
As Shri Arun Jaitely, Hon'ble Minister for Shipping and Shri Hukumdeo Narayan Yadav, Hon'ble Minister of State for Shipping could not make it conveninent to attend the meet due to on going Parliament Session, Sh. Ramchandran read over their messages to the gathering. The messages are placed at Annexure -3 & 4.


Shri B.N.Jha, Chairman, IW AI in his introductory address brought out the importance of inland water transport in accelerating the economic growth of the country and stated that IWT in many Western countries as also some Asian countries has already emerged as an effective alternate mode of transport. He informed that India has a coastline of about 6,000 Kms with 12 major ports and 163 minor/intermediate ports. 

Although, India has about 14,500 Kms of inland waterways network consisting of rivers, lakes and canals, yet IWT sector has only recently received its due attention. Much more needs to be done to really take advantage of this gift of nature. Greater involvement of State Governments in developing IWT sector would be essential to derive the benefits of the IWT policy of the Government. He stated that Mississippi river in U.S.A. and the St.Lawrence river between U.S. and Canada have become back bones for cargo transportation of industrial and agricultural produce. 

Cargo transportation through IWT in India was a meagre 1 % as against 10-20% share in U.S.A, Europe and China. With global economy and the W.T.O regime, there will be greater movement of goods to and fro. This will create heavy pressure on the already burdened transport system of rail and road. There is limit for expansion of rail and road capacity on account of constraints of available land, exorbitant cost and environmental considerations. Cost effectiveness of IWT could be assessed from the fact that while development of 1 Km of highway costs Rs 6 Cr, much less than this amount was enough to develop 100 Kms of waterway. There are some hazardous commodities, which should not be allowed to be transported on road. In view of these constraints and considerations, the development of Inland Water Transport has become more relevant in today's context.


Chairman, IW AI informed that the West Coast Canal from Kollam to Kottapuram along with Champakara and Udyog Mandai Canals for a total length of 205 Kms is the third National Waterway of the country, the other two being the Ganga and the Brahmaputra. He also stated that the West Coast Canal (NW-3), has some natural advantages over other National Waterways as it runs parallel to the roads. This removed the distance disadvantage, which exists in the other waterways. On the other hand, the Ganga and the Brahmaputra are alluvial rivers, which carry large amount of sediments during floods and have characteristics of braiding and meandering. 
Maintenance of depth of the channel and construction of pem1anent tem1inals becomes a difficult and costly proposition. In NW-3, the water level fluctuations are confined to tidal variations only. The depth once increased by capital dredging can be maintained with nominal maintenance dredging for 4 years. This also helps in construction of pem1anent terminals. He Informed that the waterway would be develqped to have a depth of 2m; width of 32m/38M and vertical clearance of 10m under the structures. 
Capital dredging works for a quantity of 2 million cu mts to provide depth, land acquisition (7-8 hac. already acquired) for construction of 11 IWT terminals at Kottapuram, Alva, Earnakulam (GC), Eanakulam (CEPZ), Vaikkom, Cherthala (Thannermukkom), Alappuzha, Trikunnapuzha, Kayamkulam, Chavara and Kollam and land acquisition for widening of narrow reaches of the waterway were already in progress. He appealed the dredging agencies who had been awarded, this work in NW-3, to resume the work immediately after the monsoon and complete it without much ado. He further informed that construction of terminals has been entrusted to CPWD who would be completing the design/ estimates in 2 months' time.


Chairman, IW Al stated that the channel will be ready for navigation by the second year of the loth plan and urged all the agencies, both in public and in the private sector, who have stake in IWT to take active participation in the process. He also called upon to avail the benefits of new policy package of the Central Government, which offers attractive opportunities to the private sector for investment. He also stated that the Government will create the basic infrastructure and would take up various works through joint ventures with the State Government / private sector.
IWT terminal sites would become nucleus for Growth Centres, which would boost processing capabilities, provide employment opportunities to the backward areas of the state besides promoting tourism in Kerala. Considering the advantages the NW-3 had over other waterways, he opined that the NW-3 would become an important National Waterway of the country.


Chairman, IW AI said that besides inter-modal mix with road and rail, inland water transport in NW.3 provides an excellent opportunity to undertake projects for linking the waterway with the port. This will provide a direct access to the products of the hinterland to the ports contributing to cost advantage in export of commodities. Similarly, the imported goods as also the goods from one state to the other can be carried by sea or coastal shipping integrated with IWT. As the cargo can be shifted from mothership to the IWT vessels, it will avoid handling and shifting to truck/rail. Some very useful and attractive projects can be undertaken in an around Cochin Port Trust linking the port to the waterway.


Chairman, IW AI also stated that infrastructure has to be created by investing substantial funds to promote transportation on the waterways. IW AI has undertaken the task to maintain requisite depth and to create the required infrastructure. However, funds through budgetary support alone will not meet the requirement. Hence, private sector participation in developing infrastructure and providing the operational services is of paramount importance. With this in view, the new policy package of the Central Government offers attractive opportunities for private sector to contribute to the development of IWT and also benefit from various concessions and incentives. 
There are a number of areas such as fairway development, construction and operation of terminals, installation and maintenance of navigation aids, pilotage, warehousing, loading/unloading facilities, etc. where joint ventures can be formed by private sector investors with the State Governments and the Central Government.


Chairman, IW AI informed that studies conducted on behalf of IW AI by various organisations have found substantial cargo potential for movement on NW-3. The raw material and finished products of FACT Ltd., Kochi Refineries Ltd., HPCL, IOC, Indian Rare Earth Ltd. and other products such as coir, cement can be transported through this eco- friendly mode. He appealed all concerned industrial establishments, especially those engaged in production of POL products to make use of IWT. It will be safer, easier and perhaps cheaper. Now that IW AI is making full efforts to maintain adequate depth in the channel, there should not be problem in using this mode.


Chairman, IW AI also emphasised the need for faster growth of tourism sector in Kerala where beautiful natural waterways and backwaters are available and should be fully exploited. IW AI would like to work in co-operation with Department of Tourism, Government ofKerala as also with private sector organisations/companies engaged in thissector. Their co-operation in providing their experience in development of waterborne tourism in other river sectors such as Allahabad-Varanasi, Buddhist circuits near Patna, Sunder bans in West Bengal, Kazi Ranga in Assam etc. will also be of immense help in promoting tourism in these areas. Chairman assured that IW AI will make the IWT related constructions along the waterways tourism friendly, reflecting the culture and natural beauty of the State. He requested Chief Engineer, CPWD to note this and if necessary, services of a good architect could be hired.


The Chairman, IWAI expressed great satisfaction over the overwhelming response from the Govt. of Kerala, Cochin Port Trust, dredging and shipping companies, ship builders and officials of PSUs, banking and financial institutions and assured active follow up on the deliberations in the interactive meet. He thanked the Chairman, Cochin Port Trust for his cooperation extended in organising the meet and hoped that CPT would continue to cooperate in the mission of IWAI in developing of IWT in Kerala. The speech of Chairman, IWAI is enclosed at Annexure-5.


In his keynote address, Shri M.P. Pinto, Secretary, Ministry of Shipping broadly explained the new IWT policy of the Central Govt. and stated that the Government was committed to develop inland water transport as an alternate and supplementary mode of transport to railways and roadways. Under the IWT policy, IWAI can raise bonds from the market; it can enter into joint ventures with State Govts. And private sector companies; IWT facilities can be developed under BOT projects; rate of depreciation has been brought at par with sea going vessels; 100% income tax would be exempted in respect of the investments in this sector for 5 years and further 30% can be availed in the next five years within 15 years as in the case of National Highways, 30% vessel building subsidy is under finalisation and in principle approval has been given for levying minimum customs duty on imported equipment and machinery for development of inland waterways.


13. He informed that the Govt. had identified various areas for private sector participation and invited large scale participation in (i)ownership and operation of vessels for cargo and passengers; (ii)fairway development and maintenance; (iii)construction and operation of river terminals on river ports; (iv)provision and operation of mechanised cargo-handling systems; (v)putting up and maintenance of navigational aids; (vi)provision of pilotage services; (vii)setting up and running of IWT training institutions.


Sh. Pinto stated that there was need for an efficient transportation system to deliver goods. Waterways, given by nature, should provide a cost effective mode of transport. IWT had advantages over railways and roadways both in cost and energy consumption and appealed for its use for transportation of cargo. For everyone rupee spent for IWT development, the corresponding cost for development of same length of roadways and railways would be Rs.2 and Rs.5 respectively. In case of energy consumption, the ratio would be between 1.5 and 4 respectively. He also brought out that the major inherent advantages of IWT included doubling of load capacities for a small increase in depth; thereby providing an aging flexibility and cost elasticity which did not exist in other modes of transport. He said that the Union Government would act as a facilitator to the private sector in developing IWT and suggested involvement of State Government in policy decisions. He also referred to the need to start fixed scheduled cargo service as a promotional venture even though full load cargo may not be available at all times and sectors at commercially viable freight.


He also informed that Ministry of Shipping, with a view to promoting IWT in an accelerated manner, has constituted Inland Water Transport Development Council under the Chairmanship of Minister of Shipping with members from 14 States. He urged to use the facilities available with the Cochin Port Trust to make IWT cheaper. He said that there should be more interaction between the state and central government and suggested setting up of the two committees, one at the level of state government preferably headed by a Minister or a Secretary to the State Govt. and the second under the Chairmanship of Chairman, CPT with one of the users as a member & IW AI representative as convener.


Shri George Eden, Hon'ble Member of Parliament emphasised the importance oflWT in decongesting roads and ensuring pollution free transportation. He expressed that the development of roadways was a costly affair and emphasised the need for special attention to National Waterway -3, being the first waterway in South India. He expressed concern over the erosion of the banks particularly in the narrow stretches in Champakkara and Udyogmandal Canals and stated that the State Govt. should make use of grants provided under Centrally Sponsored Schemes. He also assured that the State Govt. would take active part in IWT operations by entering into joint venture projects with IW AI, which would provide great employment potential in the region.


Prof. K. V. Thomas, Hon'ble Minister for Tourism and Fisheries, Govt. of Kerala stated that IWT, once developed between Kasargode and Trivandrum, would play an important role in development of Kerala and expressed that the transportation by lWT would be 50% cheaper than road transport. He stressed that an Inter-Ministerial and secretary level committees comprising representatives from Department of Tourism and Department of Transport of the State Govt. was required for development of IWT. He further stated that the development of small waterways linking National Waterway under the Centrally Sponsored schemes might be required.
Hon'ble Minister appreciated that a consensus had emerged among the speakers that side-by-side the development of tourism sector along the waterway should be developed. He said that Kerala, particularly its backwaters and the NW -3 offered tremendous and varied opportunities for different kinds of tourism activities. The idea of developing tourism facilities at the IWT terminals was appreciated. Similarly, tourism activities such as water sport, house boats etc. could be developed by the Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala and the private sector entrepreneurs individually as well as in close co-operation and co-ordination with each other. Transportation of commodities and passengers including the tourist traffic would be most welcome and the Government of Kerala will not to be found wanting in extending co-operation for making best use of the waterway potential in the State.


The Chief Guest, Shri O. Rajagopal, Hon'ble Union Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and Railways, stated that the State of Kerala was bestowed with wide net work of waterways, canals, lakes stretching from North to Southern part of the State and it should be used for all-round development of the State. He stressed the need for scientific development of the natural waterway system for deriving optimum benefits in transportation.
He also stated that the development of IWT would facilitate economic development of the State. Besides lower fuel consumption and construction costs, the aspect of safety to human life should be given due importance while considering the project and stated that the IWT had an inherent advantage in ensuring minimum human loss against very frequent accidents in case of roadways and railways. Referring to the exorbitant cost of Rs.700 crores involved in the Angamally - Sabari Railway project stretching over 200 Kms against a meagre cost of Rs.60 crores involved in development of Waterway of 205 Kms between Kottappuram - Kollam, the Hon'ble Minister requested Secretary, MOS to have a fresh look on the cost ratio of 1 : 2 : 5 indicated by him. As the feeder Canals leading to the National Waterway are equally important in promoting IWT in the region, the Hon'ble Minister desired that the development of the same be taken up giving due consideration to the tourism related activities. 


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