Nitin Gadkari-led Ministry of Roads, Highways, Ports and Shipping is making efforts for cost-effective, pollution-free and import-substitute transportation. Waterways have a big role to play here, as this transportation mode allows for a reduction in logistic costs and an increase in road safety. The minister believes that internal waterways will be a game changer for India. His ministry is encouraging operations of sea planes, catamarans, hovercrafts and cruise ships. And, the shipping industry will be converted into LNG-based, which is pollution-free as well as cost-effective.
The Indian economy is on its way to become river-oriented. This is evident with the about 2,000 ports being developed. Further, a full-fledged ports industry is expected to come up alongside, along with cooling plants, cold storages, etc. With this, logistic cost will be reduced from 18 per cent to 12 per cent, taking the rise in exports to 20-30 per cent. What’s more, the government will put in place the necessary standards for ethanol, bio-CNG, and bio-diesel, which will be promoted. On the Ganga river, the government is currently already implementing 50-60 projects.
It is evident that waterways are the ministry’s first priority, which believes that internal waterways will be a game changer. And to boost this further, all major ports in the country have been asked to set up subsidiaries, which will leverage dollar-denominated billing to raise low-cost funds. The ministry – whose total budget stands at Rs 1,800 crore – will require an investment of Rs 80,000 crore to undertake 20,000 km of the inland waterways projects. It hopes to use the largest container port in the country – JNPT’s financial credential for raising foreign loans. The Port Railway Connectivity Corporation has already been formed to undertake port railway connectivity works. Further, a separate company will be formed for the implementation of the Sagarmala project, which envisages a total investment of Rs 12 lakh crore. With a target of 2018, the ministry has already awarded mechanisation and modernisation of ports worth Rs 70,000 crore while some more works of the order of Rs 50,000 crore is expected to be undertaken in the near future.