The Maharashtra government is betting big on the state’s waterways for ferrying people across the state.
The government’s new Port policy, released last month, includes commissioning studies in identifying routes that can be developed as waterways for the transportation of people across the state.
Maharashtra has 35 creeks and rivers along its 720-km coastline. Presently, over 96 lakh people living across the coastal belt of the state use water transport every year. In comparison, over 70.22 lakh passengers use public road transport daily in the state.
“The Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB) will identify specific routes that can be developed as waterways for transportation of cargo and passengers. It will encourage private sector participation in the areas of the identified routes,” the new policy states.
The new policy also hopes to encourage private sector participation in Fairway development and maintenance as well as construction and operation of river terminals or river ports.
Even though inland waterways transport is an economical and eco-friendly mode of transportation, it requires initial government support as it has a long gestation period for return on investments. To tide over the problem, the government is planning to set up a dedicated cell within the proposed Maharashtra Port Connectivity Corporation for the development of inland waterways.
The financing of these projects will be done through a mix of budgetary support, multilateral funding, debt and internal accrual of the MMB or Maharashtra Port Connectivity Corporation.
Successive state governments have talked about the importance of inland water transport. Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation had been appointed the implementing agency for setting it up on Eastern and Western Coast of Mumbai. The project has, however, remained stuck for decades.
The Indian government has proposed the creation of inland water transport in eight areas in the hinterland of the state, including Vishnupuri and Isapur in district Nanded, and Karanja, Mandwa, Rajpuri, Janjira, Dighi, and Agardanda in district Raigad. These projects are at various stages of implementation.