NEW DELHI: In a special move aimed at promoting inland water transport, India's top 12 major ports will create SPVs to develop 111 rivers across India, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said.
Parliament in 2016 had given nod to convert 111 rivers across the country into National Waterways (NWs), in addition to existing 5 NWs, a move to boost movement of goods and passengers via rivers and expectedly reduce the transportation costs substantially.
"Given the vast potential of rivers for inland transport, we have decided that 12 major ports will constitute special purpose vehicles (SPVs) to develop rivers," Shipping, Road Transport, Highways, Water Resources and Ganga Rejuvenation Minister Gadkari told PTI.
Gadkari said 111 rivers, which are to be developed as National Waterways, will be divided among these SPVs for development.
"We have issued orders to divide rivers among ports. For example, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) will have Maharashtra and Goa rivers," the minister said.
India has 12 major ports: Kandla, Mumbai, JNPT, Marmugao, New Mangalore, Cochin, Chennai, Ennore, V O Chidambarnar, Visakhapatnam, Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia), which handle approximately 61 per cent of the country's total cargo traffic.
Gadkari regretted that unfortunately, development of waterways had been on the backseat in the country resulting in barely 3.5 per cent of trade being done through the mode here as against 47 per cent in China, 40 per cent in Europe, 44 per cent in Japan and Korea and 35 per cent in Bangladesh.
He said this mode of transport is not only a green mode of transport but has the potential to establish an optimal modal mix and reduce logistic cost.
Meanwhile, as per feasibility reports of the new National Waterways (NWs) completed so far, 36 NWs have been found technically viable for development.
"Developmental activities have been initiated on about 10 of these," Gadkari said.
These include stretches of rivers Barak, Gandak, Cumberjua, Mandovi, Zuari, Alappuzha, Rupnarayan and Sundarbans.
The detailed project reports of another 22 rivers have been finalised, while six are in final stages, Gadkari said.
The minister said all 12 major ports under the Centre were in profit and will be able to scientifically develop the NWs through their SPVs.
He said profits of the ports are expected to touch Rs 7,000 crore this year, up from Rs 3,000 crore in 2014.
"When I took the charge of the ministry, the profit of the ports was Rs 3,000 crore. This year, we are expecting profits up to Rs 7,000 crore," he said.
Gadkari also said the major ports which earn in dollars can take loans in dollar and develop the projects.
Five of the existing NWs include Allahabad-Haldia on Ganga (1,620 km), Brahmaputra's Dhubri-Sadiya (891 km), West Coast Canal Kottapuram-Kollam (205 km), Kakinada-Puducherry canals (1,078 km) and East Coast Canal integrated with Brahmani river and Mahanadi delta rivers (588 km).
The minister said Rs 2,000 crore from a central fund will be used for development of the water transport, operationalising at least 10 of the 111 National Waterways this year.
The government has earlier approved allocation of 2.5 per cent of the Central Road Fund (CRF) for NWs that would result in about Rs 2,000 crore proceeds a year for their development.