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Inland Waterways Development Council unveils ambitious plans for waterway tourism

IndiaInland Waterways Development Council unveils ambitious plans for waterway tourism

The inaugural session of the Inland Waterways Development Council (IWDC) concluded in Kolkata on Monday with significant announcements and commitments aimed at revitalizing India’s inland waterways. Presided over by Union Minister of Ports, Shipping & Waterways and Ayush, Sarbananda Sonowal, the event brought together key stakeholders, ministerial representatives, policymakers, and industry leaders.

The IWDC’s primary focus is to leverage inland waterways as catalysts for economic growth and commerce. A substantial investment of ₹45,000 crore was announced to boost the development of river cruise tourism in the country. Out of this, ₹35,000 crore is earmarked for cruise vessels, and an additional ₹10,000 crore is allocated for the creation of cruise terminal infrastructure by 2047. Another investment of ₹15,200 crore, agreed upon at the Global Maritime India Summit in October 2023, aims to enhance inland waterways for cargo trade, projecting a growth rate exceeding 400%, reaching 500 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) by 2047.

During the event, Sonowal introduced the ‘Harit Nauka’ guidelines and the ‘River Cruise Tourism Roadmap, 2047,’ expressing his vision for the IWDC. He stated, “The Inland Waterways Development Council was conceived to rejuvenate our rich waterways, neglected for decades. Our goal is to ensure sustainable development for Atmanirbhar Bharat by the end of Amrit Kaal.”

The IWDC outlined an ambitious roadmap to upgrade the capacity of an additional 26 waterways, making them suitable for river cruise tourism. The plan involves increasing the number of cruise circuits with night stays from 17 to 80 and enhancing infrastructure with a substantial 1233% growth in river cruise terminals, progressing from the current 15 to 185. The projections include a surge in cruise tourism traffic with night stays from 5,000 to 1.20 lakh and local cruise tourism traffic from 2 lakh to 15 lakh by 2047.

The IWDC, organized by the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), took place on the MV Ganges Queen vessel at the Kolkata Dock Complex.

Sonowal highlighted the transformative role of the IWDC, stating, “Inland waterways are the arteries of progress, and IWDC marks a pivotal stride in our commitment to harness their potential.” He underscored the government’s dedication to a sustainable future, unveiling ‘Harit Nauka’ and identifying over 30 potential routes for various cruise types.

He also pointed out the successful turnaround of the Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port in Kolkata, achieving a net surplus of over ₹550 crore for FY 2023-24. Government initiatives, such as the Jal Marg Vikas Project and the Maritime India Vision 2030, aim to boost the modal share of Inland Water Transportation from 2% to 5%, with a focus on increasing cargo volume from ~120 MTPA to over 500 MTPA by 2047.

Sonowal reaffirmed the central government’s commitment to invest ₹45,000 crore in waterway tourism, emphasizing plans to augment river cruise capacity and invest in eco-friendly vessels, heralding a transformative era for India’s inland waterways.

Additionally, Minister of State for Ports, Shipping & Waterways, Shantunu Thakur, said that approximately 250 kilometers of waterways along the Bangladesh border are earmarked for development. He emphasized the central government’s keen interest in the Tajpur Port in West Bengal, expressing a willingness to foster its development.

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