Waterways – Buzzword for investment

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AMITABH VERMA, IAS CHAIRMAN, IWAI

Indian rivers that wear a calm look will soon be buzzing with activity – moving cargo of all types and ferrying passengers. IWAI is going full throttle in reviving the inland waterways. Water channels are being dredged, multimodal terminals are being developed and PPP mode is being explored for barge movement and terminal operation

Q What is the response from the market for various projects of Inland Waterways?

Three multimodal terminals at Varanasi, Haldia and Sahibganj and a navigational lock at Farakka have been approved for development among others, and work contracts have also been awarded. Some major private companies have been roped in to develop terminals at various locations. For example, L&T is developing Farakka Lock, and similarly a Thailand-based company is developing the terminal at Haldia. We have also got response from companies like Dredging Corporation of India, Adani Group, and Dharti Dredging and Infrastructure for dredging contracts to develop assured navigational depth.
Q What is the response from the market for various projects of Inland Waterways? Three multimodal terminals at Varanasi, Haldia and Sahibganj and a navigational lock at Farakka have been approved for development among others, and work contracts have also been awarded. Some major private companies have been roped in to develop terminals at various locations. For example, L&T is developing Farakka Lock, and similarly a Thailand-based company is developing the terminal at Haldia. We have also got response from companies like Dredging Corporation of India, Adani Group, and Dharti Dredging and Infrastructure for dredging contracts to develop assured.

Q What are the other business opportunities for investors in inland waterways projects?

Dredging is a key component for the success of waterways, hence there is ample scope for investors in manufacturing, sale and maintenance of dredgers for these projects. There is a scarcity of shallow water dredgers in India and Cutter Suction Dredgers are ideal for deepening of water channels. Additionally, Amphibious dredgers are required for smaller channels. Private players can be associated with us in many ways. We own a fleet of dredgers which we give on lease basis to operators to manage the machines and carry out dredging operation as per our requirements. There is also prospect for companies which have their own fleet of dredgers. Then there are contracts for assured depth dredging where an operator has to maintain required draft and width to a particular level for certain stretch of a stream for a specific period of time as per the contract.
dredgers, barges and cargo handling equipment, and construction and management of terminals, there is also scope for private players to offer services for hydrographic survey of various water routes. We have proposed the government to allocate the survey work for some major stretches of waterways on a rotation basis to various independent agencies so that the report becomes more unbiased and acceptable for the market. Currently, we carry out hydrographic surveys on fortnightly basis in our own capacity. Since siltation is a continuous phenomenon, constant monitoring of river bed through hydrographic survey will be required for all waterways.
Cruise operation has also started on certain stretches of rivers and this is a good business proposition for companies who have expertise in this segment. There is also opportunity for financial institution to pump in money for various projects. The projects will also require services of consultants at various stages like environmental assessment and preparation of feasibility report.

Q Do you think there is a need for more of capital dredging or maintenance dredging to make waterways navigational throughout the year?

There is a general perception that our river ways require capital dredging. We need to understand that capital dredging is where one interferes with the original depth of a water body. If historically a water way had a depth of 3-5 metres decades ago but over a period the river basin got filled due to siltation, and in such case if we remove the deposit it is not capital dredging. Hence, any dredging carried out in waterways are to maintain the original depth. However, since extraction of deposits from river bed had never been done in last many years, it will require large scale dredging in the first instance but it will require less effort in subsequent operations. The problem with capital dredging is that its meaning is not defined anywhere, and when one refers to capital dredging for any project it leads to many complications and a number of studies and clearance is required. Since we are not interfering with the original draft of a river, it shouldn’t be called capital dredging, and Ministry of Environment has agreed with us and the dredging is being referred to as maintenance dredging.
Q What are the cargo handling capacities of the terminals being developed under Jal Vikas Marg?

There will be terminals to handle all varies of cargo including bulk, break bulk, liquid and containers. However, the cargo handling capacity of a terminal varies as per the type of cargo handled there and the availability of cargo in the hinterland. However, the terminals in river Ganga can handle all types of cargo. OPERATIONAL WATERWAYS NW-1 Ganga: Haldia – Allahabad (1620 km) NW-2 Brahmaputra: Sadiya -Dhubri (891 km) NW-3 West Cost Canal: Kottapuram- Kollam, Udyog- Mandal & Champakara canal (205 km) UNDER DEVELOPMENT NW-4 Godavari, Krishna rivers and Buckingham Canals (1078 km) in A.P., Telangana & Tamilnadu NW-5 Brahmani & Kharsua river + East Coast Canal (588 km) in Odisha & West Bengal FEBRUARY 2017.