Lok Sabha has unanimously passed the National Waterways Bill, 2015 by voice vote after it was introduced by Union Shipping, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari.The bill aims at declaring 106 additional inland waterways as National Waterways in addition to the five existing National Waterways.
The National Waterways Bill, 2015 repeals the five Acts that declare the existing national waterways. These existing five national waterways are now covered under the Bill. The enactment of this Act (Central legislation) will pave way for the inclusion of 106 additional inlands waterways. Thus the total number of national waterways numbers will go up to 111 from existing five national waterways. The Schedule mentioned in the Bill also specifies the extent of development to be undertaken on each waterway. Declaration of these National Waterways would enable Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) to develop the feasible stretches for shipping and navigation.
Inland waterways comprise mainly rivers, lakes, canals, creeks and backwaters. It extends about 14,500 km across the country. However, potential of this mode of transport has not been fully exploited so far.
Inland waterways are recognized as a fuel efficient, cost effective and environment-friendly mode of transport. The statutory status to the inland waterways would pave for investments in inland waterways transportation sector which has been neglected in the past. It would provide a cheaper mode of transport and reduce traffic burden and congestion on roads and railways. It could play a pivotal role in reducing logistic cost of transportation of goods and ultimately lead to reduction in their price in the market benefiting trade, industry, farmers and fishermen. Being a clean mode of transportation it will also help in reducing pollution.