NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday inaugurated the inland port in Varanasi, which will connect the port to India's Waterway-I. The project was unveiled as the PM received India's first container vessel that sailed from Kolkata on the inland waterway on October 30. 

The container marks the first-of-its-kind inland water movement post-independence. The first container vessel, MV Rabindranath Tagore, sailed from Kolkata for Varanasi on October 30, carrying cargo belonging to PepsiCo (India) on the Ganga river. 

What is the Multi-Modal Terminal

The Modi government had floated the Jal Marg Vikas project (JMVP)  to promote inland waterways, primarily for cargo movement. Another aim was to bring down pollution due to the use of diesel trucks. 

The MMTs are a part of the government’s Jal Marg Vikas project (JMVP) that aims to develop the stretch between Varanasi to Haldia (West Bengal) for navigation of large vessels weighing up to 1,500-2,000 tonnes. 

The Ganga-Bhagirathi Hooghly waterway

The Ganga-Bhagirathi Hooghly river system from Haldia to Allahabad, which covers  1,620 km, was declared as National Waterway No. 1 in 1986. The waterway extends from Haldia to Allahabad and passes through Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.

This stretch covered by following sections:

Haldia(Sagar)-Farakka: 560 km

Farakka-Patna: 460 km

Patna-Allahabad: 600 km

After its launch on Monday, the Varanasi multi-modal terminal project is expected to generate 500 direct and 2,000 indirect employment opportunities.

The Ganga Multi-Modal Terminal project 

The Multi-Modal Terminal project on River Ganga was started in June 2016 and holds the terminal capacity of 1.26 MPTA. The terminal project that spreads across 33.34 hectares of land, comprises of a Jetty (200m length x 42m width), two mobile harbour cranes, approach and internal roads, stone pitching works, bank protection and a Shell structure of ancillary and worker amenity building that are ready for operations. The terminal project in Varanasi is built at a cost of Rs 206 crore.

The Centre entails construction of three multi-modal terminals (Varanasi, Sahibganj and Haldia); two inter-modal terminals; five roll on-roll off terminal pairs; new navigation lock at Farakka; assured depth dredging; integrated vessel repair and maintenance facility, differential global positioning system, river information system, river training and river conservancy works. 

Inland waterways boost 

The terminal will help correct India's transport modal mix that imposes huge logistics cost on the economy. At 15%of GDP, the logistics costs in India are about twice in the US, according to the shipping ministry. 

Navigation by waterways is also cost-effective and is a major catch for state governments as well as private businesses.. The cost of transportation by waterways is 30-50 paisa per tonne per km (PTPK) only, compared to Rs 1 PTPK for rail, and Rs 1.5 PTPK for road. 


Comparative cost of moving cargo by different modes of transport

Road: Rs 2.50 per km

Railways: Rs 1 per km

Waterways: Re 0.25 per km 

India has about 14,500 km of navigable waterways which include rivers, canals, backwaters, creeks. The waterways can be a major logistics boost in the eastern part. National Waterways 1 with Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor and NH-2 will connect the National Capital Region with the eastern and north-eastern states. It will also link Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Nepal and other east and south-east Asian countries through the Kolkata Port and Indo-Bangladesh Protocol Route. 

(With agency inputs)