The National Waterways Bill, 2015

National Waterways Bill, 2015 that aims to declare 106 additional inland waterways as National Waterways in addition to the five existing National Waterways was unanimously passed by the Lok Sabha by voice vote after it was introduced by Union Shipping, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari.

Under Entry 24 of the Union List of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, the central government can make laws on shipping and navigation on inland waterways which are classified as national waterways by Parliament by law. 
Key features of the Bill :
  • The enactment of this Act (Central legislation) will pave way for the inclusion of 106 additional inlands waterways. Thus the total number of national waterways numbers will go up to 111 from existing five national waterways. 
  • Declaration of these National Waterways would enable Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) to develop the feasible stretches for Shipping and Navigation.
  • The Bill repeals the five Acts that declare the existing national waterways.These five national waterways are now covered under the Bill.
  • The Schedule mentioned in the Bill also specifies the extent of development to be undertaken on each waterway.
Objectives of the Bill :
The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill states that while inland waterways are recognised as a fuel efficient, cost effective and environment friendly mode of transport, it has received lesser investment as compared to roads and railways.  Since inland waterways are lagging behind other modes of transport, the central government has evolved a policy for integrated development of inland waterways.  
Inland waterways in India :
  • The total navigable length of  Inland waterways in India is 14,500 km, out of which about 5200 km of the river and 4000 km of canals can be used by mechanised crafts.  About 44 million tones of cargo is moved annually through these waterways using mechanized vessels and country boats.
  • Inland waterways in India consist of the Ganges (Ganga)–Bhagirathi–Hooghly rivers, the Brahmaputra, the Barak river, the rivers in Goa, the backwaters in Kerala, inland waters in Mumbai and the deltaic regions of the Godavari – Krishna rivers.
  • Freight transportation by waterways is not  utilised adequately  compared to other large countries and geographic areas like the United States, China and the European Union.
  • Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) is the statutory authority in charge of the waterways in India. Its headquarters is located in Noida, UP.
Advantages of Inland waterways :
  • Inland waterways are recognised as a fuel efficient, cost effective and environment friendly mode of transport. It provides a cheaper mode of transportation and reduces traffic burden and congestion on roads and railways.
  • Being clean mode of transportation it will also help in reducing pollution. It reduces the total cost of logistics which ultimately lead to reduction in their price in the market benefiting trade, industry, farmers, fishermen.

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