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Inside India's Inland Waterways Plan

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  • Published
    8th Jun, 2021
  • Five waterways were identified at the time when the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) was established in 1986 to help maintain and energize infrastructure around key inland waterways
  • These were:
    • Ganga-Bhagirathi-Hoogly river system between Haldia (Sagar) and Allahabad (1,620 kilometres)
    • Brahmaputra between Sadiya and the Bangladesh border (891 kilometres)
    • West coast canal (Kottapuram to Kollam), the Udyogmandal canal, and the Champakara canal, a total of 205 kilometres,
    • Kakinada-Puducherry stretch between - Rajahmundry stretch of River Godavari and Wazira - Vijayawada stretch of River Krishna (1,078 kilometres),
    • Talcher- Dhamra stretch of River Brahmani, Geonkhali-Charbatia stretch of the east coast canal, the Charbatia-Dhamra stretch of River Matai and the Mangalgadi-Paradip stretch of Mahanadi delta rivers (623 kilometres).

Scope and advantages

  • India has an elaborate network of inland waterways in the shape of rivers, canals, backwaters, and creeks.
  • Of the total length that can be navigated 20,236 kilometres - 17,980 kilometres of the river and 2,256 kilometres of canals - can be used by mechanized crafts.
  • India is underutilizing its inland waterways potential as compared to USA, CHINA or EU.
  • Water transportation is safest mode free from accidents and casualties.
  • Free from contentious issues like land acquisition.
  • Huge tourist potential since many pilgrimage sites are located on river banks.
  • Ideal for bulk and oversized cargo.

Government initiative


  • National waterways bill was passed in 2015 declaring 106 inland waterways as national waterways.
  • In 2020 shipping ministry waive off all usage charges for a period of 3 years to promote greater commercial and tourist exploration of inland waterways.


As Indian economy grows in years to come it requires creative solutions to address its energy and transportation requirements. Inland waterways offer such a roadmap and we should fully utilize its potential.



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