India has a long coastline and many large navigable rivers, still, India has not harnessed its potential and there is no significant shift from rail and road to waterways. Discuss.

A total of approximately 14% of GDP is spent on logistics in India. Waterways share a mere 6% of freight movement, while roads share 60% and railways about 30%. In some countries, the share of waterways is as high as 50%.

India has a 7600 km long coastline and about 14500 km of navigable waterways. There are 111 proposed National Waterways as per National Waterways Act, that came into effect in 2016.

Advantages of Waterways:

  • Time-saving and cost-effectiveness.
  • Comparatively less environmental pollution.
  • India has a vast network of rivers and tributaries.
  • 70% of trade by value happens via sea route.
  • Roads and railways are congested and have poor speed and capacity.
  • Remote places can be accessed.

Challenges associated:

  • Policy paralysis – only one National waterway i.e, Allahabad to Haldia is fully functional at present.
  • Very less water in rivers due to diversion for irrigation.
  • Heavy siltation and deposition reduce the depth of rivers.
  • Fear of loss of biodiversity due to pollution caused by ships.
  • Absence of last-mile connectivity and multi-modal logistics parks.
  • Absence of enough fleet of containers and boats.
  • Navigation during the night is yet not possible.

With the ever-increasing pressure on roads and railways, India needs to shift towards waterways for both freight, mail, and passenger movement to avail of the benefits of waterways. This will help reduce logistic costs as well as increase connectivity.

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