The inland waterways project won’t choke rivers
It will rejuvenate the Ganga by creating a ‘Room for River’, an effective model for flood mitigation and conservation.
Manoj Misra, in ‘The Inland Waterways Project Will Destroy India’s Rivers’ (Comment, January 4), has claimed that the project (IWT) is neither economically viable nor environmentally friendly. Both these claims are untrue.
The Jal Marg Vikas Project (JMVP) — Varanasi to Haldia on National Waterway 1 — has an economic internal rate of return of 21.40%, according to analyses by consultants engaged through global bidding for Detailed Feasibility and Engineering Studies.
The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) is developing standardised vessels for the National Waterway 1 that have a shallow draft and high carrying capacity of (up to 2000 tonnes). These vessels will need a depth of 2.2 to 3 metres and a channel width of 45 metres only even though the Ganga is almost 2.5 kilometres wide at some stretches.
The physical interventions have been kept to a minimum and construction of barrages, diversion structures and groins have been avoided. According to the dredging (desilting) management plan for JMVP, dredged material will not be deposited outside the river. The bed of the river is not being disturbed. Only maintenance dredging will be done to desilt 20 % bed load silt even as 80% of silt is in suspension.
In December 2017, the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEF&CC), has confirmed that under JMVP, prior Environmental Clearance for Maintenance Dredging, construction of terminals, jetties etc are not required. However, a detailed green assessment has still been undertaken by IWAI for each and every proposed component in JMVP, as per the Environmental and Social safeguards Policy of the World Bank which is providing financial and technical assistance to the project.
The draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) reports were made available on the IWAI website since 2016. Based on the comments from stakeholders, the EIA reports were revised in September 2016. These revised versions of the EIA reports are available on the IWAI website since December 2016 itself. Thanks to a thoroughly scrutinised Environment Management Plan, IWAI has got wildlife clearance for navigation through the Kashi Turtle Sanctuary, Varanasi, from the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) and the Coastal Regulation Zone clearance for Multi-Modal Terminal at Haldia from the MoEF&CC on November 6, 2017.
The results of a study, ‘Impact assessment of coal transportation through barges along the National Waterway No.1 (Sagar to Farakka) along river Ganga’, by ICAR-Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute (ICAR-CIFRI), Barrackpore has revealed no significant changes in water quality parameters.
Dredging is not being carried out in the entire stretch of Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary.
The Inland Water Transport (IWT) mode is cheaper than other modes even if the cargo is transported one way only. After the implementation of JMVP, when the entire infrastructure is ready, two way movement will further reduce the cost of transportation.
Has anyone ever wondered why the waterways of the USA, Canada, the European Union, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Brazil, Argentina, Russia, Bangladesh etc are so alive with millions of tonnes of cargo transported on them, and why Indian waterways are dying without any cargo transportation as yet?
JMVP will help rejuvenate the river Ganga by creating a Room for River, a model that has proved to be an effective flood mitigating and river conservancy measure internationally, especially in low lying Netherlands.
It is empirically impossible not to be convinced that Inland Water Transport (IWT) is the most environment friendly, cost effective and sustainable mode of transport. It is upon those who don’t agree with this fact, to enlighten us how any other mode is better.
Pravir Pandey is vice chairman of Inland Waterways Authority of India and project director of the World Bank-funded Jal Marg Vikas Project (Varanasi-Haldia, National Waterway -1, river Ganga)
The views expressed are personal