Union Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways Sarbananda Sonowal said that India could anchor robust business relations with neighbouring nations through the optimal and holistic development of the ecosystem of waterways.

Speaking at the inaugural session of the Waterways Conclave 2022, a two-day event organised by the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways and the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and ICC as the industry partners in Dibrugarh, Assam, Sonowal invited the industry to proactively partner with the government in the waterways sector, said an official statement.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the State is implementing ₹770 crore worth Assam Inland Water Transport project to provide safe and convenient ferry services to passengers. Talking about the importance of the waterways ecosystem in the Northeast, he said that the Brahmaputra basin possesses nearly 30 per cent of India’s water resource potential and cargo movement through waterways would significantly reduce dependence on roadways.

“Regular movement of cargo through waterways would create job opportunities and open international market for local products through cost-effective transport,” he said.

Cutting logistics cost 

In his virtual address at the event, Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways alluded to the importance of achieving logistics efficiency and emphasized on the need for an efficient waterways sector. The logistics cost is 8 to 10 per cent (of the cost of goods) in China, 10-12 per cent in the European countries and around 12 per cent in USA, while it is close to 16 per cent in India.

Bangladesh potential

Highlighting the potential of the waterways ecosystem in Bangladesh, Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury, State Minister of Shipping, Government of Bangladesh, said that there are 700 rivers in Bangladesh, out of which 54 are on the boundary between Bangladesh and India. Addressing the gathering virtually, Chowdhury said that about 8,480 kilometres of the navigable waterway of Bangladesh could be utilised for transportation and distribution of goods between Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Bhutan.

Sanjay Bandopadhyaya, Chairman, Inland Waterways Authority of India, said, “We are not only trying to connect with the neighbouring countries, but also with all the States of this region and extending to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Odisha.”