Sarbananda Sonowal, Union Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways and AYUSH, said that we could anchor robust business relations with our neighbour nations through the optimal and holistic development of the ecosystem of waterway. He was speaking at the Inaugural Session of the Waterways Conclave 2022, a two-day event organised by the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, Government of India 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 and PwC as the Knowledge partner.
"Within a radius of 2000 kilometres, we have all big cities with a combined population of 800 million, the minister said, and added, "waterways could provide the greatest opportunities for our young entrepreneurs". Minister Sonowal invited the industry to proactively partner with the government in the waterways sector and contribute to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Aatm Nirbhar Bharat vision.
In his address, Himanta Biswa Sarma, Chief Minister, Government of Assam, said that Assam is implementing 770 crores 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, Sarma said that the Brahmaputra basin possesses nearly 30% of India's water resource potential and cargo movement through waterways would significantly reduce dependence on cargo transportation for roadways.
"Regular movement of cargo through waterways would create job opportunities and open international market for local products through cost-effective transport", he said. Alluding to the importance of achieving logistics efficiency and, in turn, the waterways sector, Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Government of India, in his virtual address, said that the logistics cost is 8 to 10% (of the cost of goods) in China, 10-12% in the European countries and around 12% in USA and 16% in India. The minister averred that waterways are the most cost-effective medium of transport compared to road and railways, "as far as the logistic cost is concerned, the logistics efficiencies the waterways is the ultimate mission for all of us", he added.
G Kishan Reddy, Minister of Development of North Eastern Region, Government of India, in his virtual address, said that waterways would be significantly helpful in realising the potential of abundant natural resources in the northeast. Ashwini Vaishnaw, Minister of Communications, Electronics & Information Technology and Railways, Government of India, said that we must try to achieve as high a share of the waterways sector as possible in the logistics mix, comprising rail, road, and waterways in the country.
"One litre of fuel will transport one tonne of freight, 24 kilometres by road, 95 kilometres by rail, and an impressive 215 kilometres by waterways", the minister said.
Shipping and Waterways, Government of India 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 and PwC as the Knowledge partner.Highlighting the immense potential of the waterways ecosystem for the North-east region, 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."
Alluding to the numerous milestones achieved in the waterways sector, Sanjeev Ranjan, Secretary, Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, Government of India, said that a record movement of 4.5 million metric tonnes under the Bangladesh India Protocol Route had been achieved.
Lyonpo Loknath Sharma, Minister of Economic Affairs, Royal Government of Bhutan, said that the trade between Bhutan and India was increasing and invited the stakeholders to work towards enhancing the link between Assam and East Bhutan, which has a vast potential in terms of economy of scale. "Leveraging waterway is the answer", he said, and added, "we are looking forward to regional connectivity". Highlighting the potential of the waterways ecosystem in Bangladesh, Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury,
State Minister of Shipping, Government of Bangladesh, said, "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 8480 kilometres of the navigable waterway of Bangladesh could be utilised for transportation and distribution of goods between Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Bhutan." Dr Rajkumar Ranjan Singh, Minister of State, External Affairs, Government of India, said that close to 99% of India's northeast region boundaries are international and pointed to the need "to explore and leverage the proximity of the Bay of Bengal."
Rameshwar Teli, Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas, Government of India, said that 111 waterways had been declared national waterways. He added that waterways in the northeast would be an alternative to the Siliguri region, commonly referred to as the chicken neck of the country.
Chandra Mohan Patowary, Minister for Transport, Industry & Commerce, Act East Policy Affairs, Skill Development, Welfare of Minorities in Government of Assam, said Assam singly has 1500 kilometres of navigable water route out of the total 14500 kilometres in the country. The Minister added that "all ship builders will get the same benefit as industries under national and state policies".