Inland Waterways Current Affairs - 2020

Facts Box: Waterways Usage Charges waived for three years

The Ministry of Shipping recently waived Waterways Usage Charges (WUC) for three years.

Highlights

The WUC have been waived off to achieve the target of GoI to make inland waterways as a supplementary, cheaper, and eco-friendly mode of transport. The Inland Waterways Authority of India operating under Ministry of Shipping has levied WUC for plying cargo vessels on the national waterways. The IWAI is the statutory authority that monitors and maintains waterways in India.

The Water Usage Charges were so far a big hindrance for traffic movement.

Benefits

The waiving is expected to increase inland waterway traffic movement to 110 million metric tonnes by 2022-23. It was 72 million metric tonnes in 2019-20. The reduced charges of water transport will attract more industries to use national waterways for their logistical needs. Also, it will reduce burden on other transport system in the country.

Background

There are 14,500 km of navigable waterways in India. This includes canals, rivers, backwaters and creeks. The National Waterways Act, 2016 pronounced 111 rivers, creeks, river stretches and estuaries in the country as National Waterways.

Despite all these measures, Inland Water Transport in India is miniscule as compared to other countries. It is just 0.5% in India. On the other hand, it is 8.3% in US, 8.7% in China, 7% iin Europe and 42% in Netherlands.

India-Bangladesh sign Inland Water Transit and Trade Protocol

On May 20, 2020, India and Bangladesh signed the second Addendum of the Inland Water Transit and Trade Protocol in Bangladesh.

Highlights

Under the new protocol, the countries can ply on designated protocol route. Also, movement of shallow draft mechanized vessels have been allowed between Dhubri (India) and Chilmari (Bangladesh). This is being considered as path breaking development. This will help in export of Bhutanese cargo, stone chips and North East Cargo to Bangladesh. The step will increase economy of Bangladesh and lower Assam.

Routes

Under the new addendum signed, the number of Indo Bangladesh Protocol routes are being increased from 8 to 10.

Ports

Currently there are 6 ports that are operated under the protocol. Now with the new agreement, five more ports of call have been included. The inclusion of Jogigopha will help in connectivity with Meghalaya, Bhutan and Assam

Significance

The inland water transit is important for India to transport food grains, agricultural products, fertilizers, containerized cargo and cement. The major export cargo from India to Bangladesh is fly ash. India exports around 30 lakh metric tonnes of fly ash to Bangladesh in a year. It is to be noted that recently environmentalists raised concerns of fly ash barges sinking in Hooghly river.