Inland Water Transport (IWT)

Why in News?

  • According to the Maritime India Vision (MIV)-2030, Government intends to raise the share of Inland Water Transport (IWT) to 5%.

About Inland Water Transport (IWT)-

  • Inland water transport refers to the transportation of people, goods, and materials via waterways like rivers, canals, lakes, and other navigable bodies of water that are situated within a country’s boundaries.
  • Water transport is the most economical mode of transportation, particularly for bulk cargo such as coal, iron ore, cement, food grains and fertilizer. At present, it remains underutilized at a share of 2 percent in India’s modal mix.
  • Socio-Economic Benefits of IWT-
  • Cheaper operating cost and relatively lesser fuel consumption.
  • Less polluting mode of transportation.
  • Less requirement of land relative to other modes of transportation.
  • Environment friendly mode of transportation.
  • Further, waterways can be used for recreational purposes like boating and fishing.

Scope and Challenges of Inland Waterways in India-

  • India has an extensive network of inland waterways, involving rivers, canals, and backwaters, covering more than 20,000 kilometres in length. Inland water transport has huge potential in India as a mode of transportation for both passengers and cargo.
  • Priority development of National Waterway-1 was undertaken through the Jal Vikas Marg Project (JVMP), which involves Arth Ganga, and they will provide an economic boost of Rs 1,000 crore over the next five years.
  • The inland waterways can play a vital role in realising Prime Minister (PM) vision of making India a zero-carbon emission country by 2070.


  • No Navigability throughout the Year- Several rivers are seasonal and do not provide navigability through the year. About 20 out of the 111 identified national waterways have reportedly been found unviable.
  • Intensive Capital and Maintenance Dredging- All the identified waterways need intensive capital and maintenance dredging, which could be resisted by the local community on environmental grounds, along with displacement fears, thereby posing implementation challenges.
  • Other Uses of water- Water also has important competing uses, viz. need for living and for irrigation, power generation etc. It would not be feasible for the local government and others to overlook these needs.
  • Exclusive Jurisdiction of the Central Government- The exclusive jurisdiction of the Union Government is only in regard to shipping and navigation on inland waterways declared to be ‘National Waterways’ (NW) by an act of Parliament.
  • Utilisation/sailing of vessels, in other waterways, is under the concurrent list or is in the jurisdiction of the respective state governments.

About Maritime India Vision 2030-

  • It is a 10 year blueprint for the maritime sector which was published by the Prime Minister at the Maritime India Summit in November 2020.
  • It will replace the Sagarmala initiative and aims to encourage waterways, give a fillip to the shipbuilding industry and enhance cruise tourism in India.
  • Policy Initiatives and Development Projects-
  • Maritime Development Fund- A Rs. 25,000-crore fund, which will give low cost, long-tenure financing to the sector with the Centre contributing Rs. 2,500 crores in seven years.
  • Port Regulatory Authority- A pan-India port authority will be established under the new Indian Ports Act (to replace the old Indian Ports Act 1908) for enabling oversight across major and non-major ports, improve institutional coverage for ports and provide for structured growth of the ports sector to boost investor confidence.
  • Eastern Waterways Connectivity Transport Grid project- Its objective is to build regional connectivity with Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar.
  • Riverine Development Fund- Calls for extending low cost, long-term financing for inland vessels with the help of a Riverine Development Fund (RDF) and for extending the coverage of the tonnage tax scheme (applicable to ocean-going ships and dredgers) to inland vessels also to improve the availability of such vessels.
  • Rationalisation of Port Charges- It will make them more competitive, besides doing away with all hidden charges levied by ship liners to bring in more transparency.
  • Promotion of Water Transport- For decongestion of urban areas, and developing waterways as an alternative ways of urban transport.

Various Related Government Initiatives-

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