Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath has promised to help acquire 100 acres of land for the creation of a Rs 1,000-crore multi-modal ‘freight village’ in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency, Varanasi, to be developed by the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI). The village, a one-of-its-kind infrastructure platform, will anchor movement of goods by railways and roadways ultimately dovetailing with the waterways’ scheme of things, as per plans. The facility will come around the proposed multi-modal terminal adjacent to the city on the banks of the Ganga.
Adityanath along with his top officials met IWAI brass in Varanasi on Saturday to understand the mammoth, World Bank-funded project’s requirements in Uttar Pradesh. Following a presentation by the IWAI, the CM directed the UP chief secretary to set the process in motion for making the land acquisition process smoother with help from state agencies, sources said. “The CM was keen that this unique central project gets a red-carpet treatment in the state and does not face any hurdles,” a top UP government source present in the meeting told The Indian Express.
The assurance of assistance from the UP government was something missing in the previous regime in the state, officials claimed. Location-wise, the village is proposed to be at a critical future freight-movement hub for north and eastern India. The authority has zeroed in on a location at a junction of National Highways 2 and National Highways 7. The village’s distance from NH 7 will be just around 600 metres. The closest railway station, Jeonathpur, at a distance of around six kilometers on the main Kolkata-Delhi rail route and the future Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor.
The NDA government is developing the 1,390-km National Waterways 1 on the Ganga under Jal Marg Vikas Project from Haldia in West Bengal to Varanasi with the technical and financial assistance of the World Bank at an estimated cost of Rs 5,369 crore. The rationale is that since rail and roadways for cargo movement on this route is already congested and bursting in seams, a waterway would provide another alternative, cheaper mode of moving goods. The NH-1 will cater to Allahabad, Varanasi, Ghazipur, Bhagalpur, Patna, Howrah, Haldia and Kolkata, and the industrial hinterland in the Ganga basin.
The IWAI has also commissioned a study by MIT Infrastructure Architecture Lab to develop models for ferry services at six urban locations along NW-1, one of which is Varanasi. Petroleum products, chemicals and fertilizers, vegetables, sugarcane, cement, rice, cereal grains are some of the major products that are projected to be moved through Varanasi on NW-1 with a potential for 39 million tonnes worth of cargo, as per the government estimates.
Under the project, there are going to be three multi-modal terminals – one each at Varanasi, Sahibganj in Jharkhand, and Haldia; two inter-modal terminals- at Kalughat and Ghazipur; a new Navigation Lock at Farakka, five Roll on-Roll off terminals, development of ferry services at Varanasi, Patna, Bhagalpur, Munger, Kolkata and Haldia and vessel repair and maintenance facilities.
India’s waterways are largely overlooked today for freight movement due to the rise of other modes over the past decades. The move to revive them as an economically viable alternative takes its cue from other large economies like the US, which moves 615 million tonnes of freight on waterways representing an 8.3 per cent of modal share compared to rail and road. Similarly, China moves a massive 1,100 million tonnes of goods, as much as the entire Indian Railways, per year through its waterways, which make 8.7 per cent of total goods moved in all modes. India on the other hand moves only 0.5 per cent of its goods through waterways. The current thrust is to revive the waterways and make them viable options in the economy again.