National Waterways Current Affairs

National waterways project threatens Gangetic dolphins

According to the scientists and wildlife conservationists, the National Waterways (NW) project possesses serious environmental threat to Gangetic river dolphins.

The development NW1 in the River Ganga is considered as single-largest threat to the survival of the species, whose numbers are declining in most parts of their natural habitat.

River dolphins are found in Ganga and Brahmaputra and its tributaries. It has been declared endangered species and is protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

This fresh water dolphin species are practically blind. They rely on bio-sonar method to move around and catch their prey.  It is the National Aquatic Animal of India.

Threats to survival of Gangetic river dolphins

  • Construction of dams and barrages which hinders the natural flow of the rivers is the main reason considered for decline in the population of Gangetic river dolphin.
  • Besides, pollution and lack of awareness also causes decline in their population.
  • Loss of habitat due to increased developmental work, depletion of prey base, accidental mortality in fishing nets and accidents with vessel propellers are also some anthropogenic threats. The ships’ noise-levels also disrupt the ability to navigate and find prey.

Importance of National Waterways (NW) projects

  • India has a huge untapped potential of inland waterways. To tap this potential the Central Government has planned to develop National Waterway 1, World Bank-aided 1600-km waterway project in River Ganga between Allahabad and Haldia for inland transportation.
  • It has potential to emerge as the logistics artery for northern India and improve navigability of the River Ganga as it passes through Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.

Solutions

  • To tackle threat to dolphins, Union Ministry of Environment and Forest Conservation in 2016 had launched Endangered Species Recovery Plans for four species of global importance.
  • During the development of NWs, some measures will be listed such as safeguards, mentioned issues like minimising dredging.
  • Movement of cargo vessels will be restricted through protected habitat areas through river, monitoring systems and sound mufflers will be installated to reduce underwater noise.
  • Nesting grounds, breeding and spawning grounds of dolphins will be identified and development projects activity will be minimised in those areas.

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Lok Sabha passes The National Waterways Bill, 2015

Lok Sabha has unanimously passed the National Waterways Bill, 2015 by voice vote after it was introduced by Union Shipping, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari.

The bill aims at declaring 106 additional inland waterways as National Waterways in addition to the five existing National Waterways.

Key facts

  • The National Waterways Bill, 2015 repeals the five Acts that declare the existing national waterways. These existing five national waterways are now covered under 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.
  • The Schedule mentioned in the Bill also specifies the extent of development to be undertaken on each waterway.
  • Declaration of these National Waterways would enable Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) to develop the feasible stretches for Shipping and Navigation.

Inland waterways comprise mainly rivers, lakes, canals, creeks and backwaters. It extends about 14,500 km across the country. However, potential of this mode of transport has not been fully exploited so far.

Advantages

  • Inland waterways are recognised as a fuel efficient, cost effective and environment friendly mode of transport.
  • The statutory status to the inland waterways would pave for investments in inland waterways transportation sector which has been neglected in the past.
  • It would provide a cheaper mode of transport and reducing traffic burden and congestion on roads and railways.
  • It would play pivotal role in reducing logistic cost of transportation of goods and ultimately lead to reduction in their price in the market benefiting trade, industry, farmers, fishermen.
  • Being clean mode of transportation it will also help in reducing pollution.

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