For the past several years, there has been talk of transport and freight through waterways in India, but even now it seems like a distant dream. However, now the government is thinking of bringing major changes in this area through the Inland Vessels Bill, 2021. Rivers can also be called nature’s highways and India is fortunate that it has got many such natural highways. Big rivers of the world like Ganga and Brahmaputra flow here. Whenever there is talk of traffic through Indian river routes, many experts say that it is as useful as a network of rails and roads. Not only this, freight transportation through waterways is also cheaper than these two. Government figures also show the same. According to him, the cost of transporting one ton of goods by rail is Rs 1.36 and by road Rs 2.50, but through waterways this cost will be only Rs 1.06. India has a route of about 14,500 km of traffic through rivers. If you keep these two figures together, then it can become a very useful option not only for business but also for ordinary travel. It may sound very good to hear all this, but India has not made much progress in this direction so far. Talks have been going on here for the last several years, but even now it seems like a distant dream. However, now the Government of India is claiming that it is engaged in making this dream a reality. The old law was a hindrance to traffic. Recently, the Government of India has made changes in a more than a century old law related to the use of these rivers. The name of this law was ‘Inland Vessels Act, 1917.
Although it had been changed many times since its implementation, but it could not open the way for traffic through Indian rivers. Many experts believe that the reason for this was outdated and inadequate rules of law. For example, under this law, the decisions related to rivers were taken by the state or local governments and many ships were allowed to travel only within the state limits. Not only this, only the local governments had the right to issue permits and certificates. And due to the different rules of each state, the smooth movement of ships between the states was an impossible thing. With the passage of the Inland Vessels Bill, 2021, this picture is likely to eventually change. With this law, the entire process of transportation of ships through rivers will come under a central regulatory body. There is also a detailed classification of ships in this. The boat carrying people has been kept separate from the barge that will transport timber or wheat. In this, ships, boats, yachts, container ships and ferries have been kept in different categories. Once they are classified, their activity and identification have to be managed through a central database. Under this law, rules related to the liability of ships in accident, injury or death and in some other cases have also been made. And different security laws have also been made. Expected to create lakhs of jobs The best part of these changes is that all movement of transport through rivers has been brought under a single law. If these activities increase, then new jobs will be created at ports, ship crews, shipyards etc. Small and medium-sized companies within the country may also be able to use it to ship their goods to bigger cities and reduce their freight cost. Apart from this, this law also emphasizes on reducing pollution.
Ships will no longer be able to pollute waterways. The central government has advised ship owners to adopt suitable methods for the disposal of sewage and waste. Ships plying on these waterways have been banned from dumping anything that can pollute the waterways. Owners will either have to find alternatives or move towards more eco-friendly solutions. The changes are not easy, the bill also talks about developing domestic ports and India’s 7500 km long sea border. This is expected to generate 1 crore jobs for the government. Out of which 40 lakh people are to get direct employment in the next 10 years. However, many experts do not agree with such claims. They also believe that it cannot be claimed that these changes will increase traffic through the existing waterways in the country. According to TC Mahanta, who was an engineer in the Inland Water Transport Department of the Government of Assam, “It may sound very good but it is not easy. One of the biggest rivers of the country, the Brahmaputra also faces water scarcity. There is a huge fluctuation in its water level up to 9 meters. It’s impossible to do construction work for it.” Damage to both rivers and local rivers Rivers have been used for transport and travel in India for many centuries. It has also been very beneficial for fishermen, small traders and farmers. But what the Indian government wants to do is unnecessary and short-sighted. Shripad Dharmadhikari, founder of the Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, which works on water in India, says, “The Indian government is trying to pass heavy ships of 2-3 thousand tonnes through these rivers, but there is one obvious thing that should be kept in mind before taking such a step. What is needed is that a waterway would require both water and a road.
This is not possible in India because most of the rivers do not have enough water to pass through them after the monsoon.” In such a situation, experts say about digging the rivers 3-4 meters deep in 90 meters width. But it will also have to be filled with water. And where will the water come from to do this. Also silt is a problem for the rivers of the plains, it will again bridge this depth. That is, there will be no benefit by spending crores but This will cause a lot of damage to the fishermen and the habitat of the river.Government pay attention to small boatmen and fishermen And it will not benefit the locals. They say, these ships will only work to break the nets of local fishermen, obstruct fishing. On the other hand, if the idea of connecting rivers is thought of to make this scheme successful, then there will be losses. Will increase further. TC Mahant says, “We don’t even have data on the pattern of rivers for the last decade. No such step is impossible without him.” Shripad Dharmadhikari then calls the plan to interlink the rivers ridiculous. According to him, “such a move will drain water even in those rivers, in which traffic is currently possible through waterways.” He also says, “Despite all the claims of the government, it is not even a profitable deal. It is wrong to carry goods by road from one destination to another destination. The cost of transporting them to railways is also not high, but the cost of transporting goods to waterways is more. Will come. Due to which the cost of carrying goods door to door will not be cheap.” This fear of the experts does not seem false either. The National Waterways Act was passed in the year 2016 and it was said by the government that there are 111 waterways in the country, but later the government itself admitted that only 23 of these could be used. Some of the rest are being used for tourism etc. but they are not being used for transportation of industrial goods. That’s why most experts want that the Indian government should leave the insistence on running heavy ships and make plans keeping in mind the small boatmen and fishermen. The port of the German city of Duisburg is 300 years old.