Think Learn & Perform (TLP)

The Only Dedicated Platform for UPSC Mains Answer Writing

Day 34 – Q 4. Examine the potential of inland water transportation in India.

4. Examine the potential of inland water transportation in India.  

भारत में अंतर्देशीय जल परिवहन की संभावना की जांच करें।


Inland Waterways Transport (IWT) is a method of transporting cargo over rivers, backwaters, canals, and creeks.

It provides a cost-effective, logistically efficient and environment-friendly mode of transport and whose development as a supplementary mode would enable diversion of traffic from over-congested roads and railways.


India has nearly 14,500 km of navigable waterways. However, IWT accounts for less than 1% of its freight traffic. Developing IWT will lead to following Potential benefits

  1. Industries:
  • Bring down logistics cost thus increasing competitiveness of industries.
  • Dispersal of industries along waterways leading to employment generation thus promoting balanced regional development.
  • Fillip to ship building industry.
  • Boost to Tourism sector.
  1. Enhanced connectivity with neighbouring countries like Bangladesh will boost trade and commerce between nations. Within India, it will boost the maritime trade of the Indian states and augment their economies.
  2. Towards Green economy:
  • Comparatively less polluting: CO2 emissions are from container vessels range much lesser than road transport vehicles.
  • Diversion of traffic from road and rail.
  1. Their development will lead to the development of integrated transportation sector (rail, road, water) thus connecting ports, major cities with remote areas.
  2. Their economic importance will lead to better management of inland water resources.
  3. As the acquisition of land for national and State highways becomes scarce and the cost of construction of roads, flyovers and bridges goes up, inland waterways provide better alternative to the government as a means of public transportation.

However, following challenges exist in their development.

  • There is seasonal fall in water levels particularly rain-fed rivers of peninsular India which are almost dry during summer.
  • Less flow of water due to diversion of water for irrigation. Hard for even steamboats to sail. Example: Ganga.
  • Reduced navigability due to siltation, waterfalls and cataracts in rivers and salinity in coastal rivers.
  • Dredging carried out to maintain minimum depth of water may negatively affect aquatic ecosystem, entry of saline water into creeks in coastal areas.
  • Lack of Public Funds: The financing requirement for NWs is huge and open-ended. Heavy investment will be needed to procure equipment, including dredgers, shipping vessels, and barges of different sizes.
  • Disinterest by Private Players: Even after liberalisation and economic reforms, there has been very less active participation from private players in this sector.


Given such benefits IWT brings, Government of India Under the National Waterways Act, 2016, 111 inland waterways have been declared as National Waterways (NWs)in addition to the five existing NWs, across 24 States for utilizing them as an environment friendly and sustainable mode of transport. The Jal Marg Vikas Project has been commissioned for capacity augmentation of NW–1 (river Ganga) from Haldia to Varanasi with an objective to facilitate movement of 1,500 – 2,000tonne vessels.

Such a holistic and concerted effort can change India’s transportation landscape, have multiplier effect on economy, de-congest arterial roads, and even improve quality of life across geographies.

Best answer: Sharath Yerrapothu

Print Friendly, PDF & Email