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Ganga to act as fuel carriageway for 21 power projects - Bids invited to acquire barges to be used for cargo movement

  • Ganga is all set to become the lifeline for 21 power projects in eastern India. The Inland Water Authority of India (IWAI) has prepared a plan to transport coal to these plants located between Allahabad and Haldia. After successfully moving imported coal to one of NTPC’s plants and foodgrains to the North- Eastern region, the Authority is working on transporting coal to NTPC’s Barh power project in Bihar.

  • “Once the operation is in full swing, we will have 90 barges (small ships for carrying goods) moving every day on river Ganga,” Amitabh Verma, Chairman of IWAI, said. The contract for Barh will be for carrying 3 million tonnes of coal every year. Initially, this contract will be for 10 years to be implemented through public-private partnership. The Authority is planning to transport coal to 11 existing power projects and 10 projects to become operational soon in the next 5-6 years. Since the country has few barges at present, the Authority has issued expressions of interest (EOI) for getting 8-10 barges from domestic and international operators each with a carrying capacity of 2,000 tonnes. It also plans to lease barges to interested domestic entities.

  • “Initially, the lease period will be for one year with a condition that the operator will have to place the order within six months for its own barge. The lease could be renewed subject to business development,” said Verma adding that it takes almost a year to build a barge and costs approximately ₹9 crore. The plan is to use these barges not just in the Ganga (National Waterway 1) but also in the Brahamputra (National Waterway 2) for cargo transportation. Transportation through inland waterways is cheaper. For example, coal transported to NTPC’s unit at Farakka in West Bengal is estimated to save 15-20 per cent in carriage cost in comparison to transportation over land. Second, there will be no scope for leakage or pilferage on waterways. Third, it will lessen the burden on road and rail resulting in lower pollution.

  • Verma said that there is a lot of scope for waterways development in India keeping in mind the progress made in other countries. For example Germany has 7,700 km of waterways which account for nearly 20 per cent of the total cargo movement while India has about 14,500 km of navigable waterways but contribute less than one per cent of the total cargo movement. Even expenditure wise, while Germany spent €15 billion alone in 2012 on waterways, China spent around $15.6 billion during 2006-10, but India has spent just little over ₹1,000 crore on waterways during the last 25 years.

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