NEW DELHI: The government plans to shift a significant portion of inland cargo movement from road and rail to waterways, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said Friday.
Tabling the Modi 2.0 government's maiden budget for 2019-20, Sitharaman said the the movement of cargo volume on Ganga is estimated to increase by nearly four times in the next four years.
"We need to develop our inland waterways to shift a significant portion of inland cargo movement from road and rail. This government envisions using the rivers for cargo transportation, which will also help to decongest roads and railways," Sitharaman said.
As part of the Jal Marg Vikas Project for enhancing the navigational capacity of Ganga, a multi-modal terminal at Varanasi has become functional in November 2018 and two more such terminals at Sahibganj and Haldia and a navigational lock at Farakka would be completed in 2019-20, she said.
"The movement of cargo volume on Ganga is estimated to increase by nearly four times in the next four years. This will make movement of freight, passenger cheaper and reduce our import bill," Sitharaman said.
Sitharaman said connectivity is the lifeblood of an economy and Sagarmala would enhance port connectivity, modernisation and port-linked industrialisation.
"If Sagarmala is aimed at improving the infrastructure for external trade, equally it is the poor man's transport too. Waterways are proven as a cheap mode of transport.
"The Jal Marg Vikas project for capacity augmentation of navigation on National Waterways is aimed at smoothening internal trade carried through inland water transport," she said.
These initiatives will improve logistics tremendously, reducing the cost of transportation and increasing the competitiveness of domestically produced goods, she added.
The budget has proposed an allocation to the tune of Rs 1902.56 crore for 2019-20 as against Rs 1881.13 crore in 2018-19 which was revised to Rs 1938.76 crore.
Reacting on the budget, Shipping Minister Mansukh Lal Mandaviya said the minister has struck key chords with the Indian populace and chartered ambitious initiatives and plans for New India's promising future.
"Connectivity was another issue touched upon by the budget with the introduction of Sagar Mala and Bharat Mala, initiatives that will boost India's infrastructure further.
The budget also pushed for the concept of "One Nation One Grid", and also introduced various incentives to boost sales of e-vehicles. The budget also proposed to increase the cargo carrying capacity of the Ganga by four times," Mandaviya said.