Union Cabinet approves 2.5 per cent of road fund for National Waterways

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To boost inland water transport, the government today approved allocation of 2.5 per cent of the Central Road Fund for National Waterways (NWs) that would result in about Rs 2,000 crore proceeds per annum for their development.

Parliament last year had enacted National Waterways Act, 2016, for developing and maintaining the existing five NWs and 106 new NWs across the country.

"The Union Cabinet has accorded its approval to a proposal jointly mooted by the Ministry of Shipping and the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways for amendment of Central Road Fund Act, 2000, to allocate 2.5 per cent of the proceeds of CRF for development and maintenance of NWs and a reduction in the share provided for development of National Highways," an official statement said.

CRF is a duty on excise and customs imposed on petrol and high speed diesel. The cess at present is Rs 6 per litre.

The Cabinet also directed that while implementing viable National Waterways projects, all such components that can be done on PPP basis, should be explored and government funding may be used only if private investment is not forthcoming.

The Central Road Fund (Amendment) Bill, 2017 would be moved by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways in the ensuing monsoon session of Parliament.

The fund collected under CRF was to the tune of Rs 80,800 crore in 2016-17, Rs 69,540 crore in 2015-16 and Rs 25,122 crore in 2014-15.

"An allocation of 2.5 per cent of CRF proceeds would provide approximately Rs 2,000 crore per annum for the development and maintenance of NWs at existing rates of duties funding the CRF," the statement said.

The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) has estimated that approximately Rs 25,000 crore would be required for development of identified projects on NWs till 2022-23.

In this regard, works for construction of multi-modal terminals, new navigation lock, River Information System and development of fairway have already commenced under the Jal Marg Vikas Project being implemented on NW-1 (River Ganga).

"Massive work worth Rs 5,000 crore is underway to develop various projects on the Ganga with World Bank assistance, including development of multi-modal hubs," Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari had said earlier this month.

The Inland Waterways Authority of India, under the Ministry of Shipping, is facilitating cruise operations on National Waterways-1 from Kolkata to Varanasi in collaboration with private cruise operators.

The facilities, provided by the IWAI, include navigation aids, including night navigation facility, embarking and disembarking at designated locations, facilitating expeditious crossing of the Farakka Navigation Lock, pilotage and assistance in distress.

In addition to becoming one of the principal cargo movement routes in India, this stretch on NW-1 has good potential for river cruise tourism.

IWAI also has planned to undertake work on the development of 24 NWs during the next three years.

"It is estimated that 1.8 lakh persons would be provided employment in the Inland Waterways Transport (IWT) sector in the next five years," the government said.

New employment opportunities are expected to be generated for operation and management of fairway, terminals, aids to navigation, barges, training and other areas, it said adding development of additional 106 NWs will create more job opportunities.

The arrangement approved by the Cabinet would make available adequate and sustainable source of funding for NWs through institutional means of CRF.

"This is one more step towards promotion of Inland Water Transport sector as a cost effective, logistically efficient and environment friendly sector which would contribute in diverting traffic from the over congested roads and railways and offer an incentive and provide certainty for private companies to invest in the sector," the statement said.

It is estimated that a standard 2000 DWT vessel has the potential to transport 125 truck loads and almost one complete train rake (40 rail wagons) load.
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