Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari said that Inland waterways will not only offer economical transportation of passengers and bulk cargo between different parts of India but could also facilitate greater trade flows with the neighbouring countries like Bangladesh.
He was addressing the Special Plenary Session of the South Asia Economic Conclave, organised by CII, in cooperation with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the World Bank.
Gadkari said that the ministry is working towards establishing a ‘waterport’ – a waterways port – in Sahibganj in the state of Jharkhand that will accelerate import and export of goods between India and Bangladesh.
Stating that the use of inland waterways will bring down the logistics costs for industry, he said that profits accrued from the Indian ports and Shipping Corporation of India will be channelled for inland waterways development. He mentioned that Indian ports have become profitable once again and that he has mandated the ports management to be benchmarked with the best managed and profitable ports globally.
The minister also said that the government has planned for establishing multi-modal hubs in Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Sahibganj, and Haldia in West Bengal.
He also said that the tonnage of barges for these waterways will be enhanced through special design to handle larger volumes of passenger traffic and cargo.
On highway development, Gadkari said his is taking the PPP route to undertake major highways and expressways project development.
He said that his ministry plans to set up an NHA International arm that will drive roads and highways projects development to connect the neighbouring countries. The international arm could also extend its expertise to the South Asian countries for the development of roads, highways, expressways and bridges.
The minister also stressed the initiative that was taken to develop a lower-cost lithium ion battery for buses.
Citing that has worked closely with the Indian Space Research Organisation to promote this R&D, he said through this effort the cost of lithium ion battery to run buses has been brought down from around Rs 55 lakh to Rs 5 lakh.
Once this battery manufacturing is fully developed, the solution could be shared with the South Asian countries, added Gadkari.