National Waterways Current Affairs
The Lok Sabha has unanimously passed Central Road Fund (Amendment) Bill, 2017. The Bill seeks to amend the Central Road Fund (CRF) Act, 2000.
The CRF Act regulates Central Road Fund (CRF) into which cess levied and collected on high speed petrol and diesel is credited for development of national and state highways.
Central Road Fund (CRF)
CRF was established to fund development and maintenance of National Highways, State Highways and Rural roads by the Government. In order to mobilise the fund, the CRF Act has proposed to levy and collect cess on petrol and high speed diesel oil. The fund is utilised for development and maintenance of National highways, State Highways, Rural roads and also road overbridges, under bridges and other safety features at unmanned Railway Crossings.
Key Features of Bill
The Bill seeks to allocate share of this cess towards development of inland waterways. The Bill defines national waterways as those under National Waterways Act, 2016. Currently, 111 waterways are specified under this Act.
Utilization of fund: The Bill provides that in addition to utilization of this fund for various road projects, it will also be used for the development and maintenance of national waterways.
Power of central government: The Bill expands power of central government for administering the fund for the purpose of investment decisions for national waterways as well.
Allocation of cess: The Bill decreases allocation of cess towards development and maintenance of national highways from 41.5% to 39%. It allocates 2.5% of cess towards development and maintenance of national waterways.
National Waterways is cost effective, environment friendly and logistically efficient mode of transportation. Its development will serve as supplementary to existing transportation modes that will enable diversion of traffic from over-congested roads and railways.
The National Waterways Act, 2016 enacted by Parliament had increased total number of national waterways to 111 from earlier 5. In order to develop national waterways with modern infrastructure, sustainable source of funding is needed as a budgetary support as funds from multilateral institutions are inadequate. The Central Road Fund (CRF) arrangement will make available adequate and sustainable source of funding for NWs through institutional means.
The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) has raised Rs. 660 crore as Fully Serviced Bonds. The oversubscribed bonds were issued through e-bidding on BSE Portal and the entire amount of Rs.660 crore was raised in single tranche at a coupon rate of 7.47%.
The proceeds from these bonds will be utilized by IWAI exclusively for capital expenditure for development of National Waterways (NWs) under National Waterway Act, 2016 during 2017-18. The principal and interest on these bonds will be financed by budgetary provisions in demand for grants of Ministry of shipping. The interest payment will be on semi-annual basis and the principal on maturity. Prior to raising bonds, IWAI had engaged arrangers, credit rating agencies, registrars and trustees. Both CRISIL and CARE rated proposed bonds of IWAI as “AAA: STABLE”.
Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI)
IWAI is the statutory body in charge of the waterways in India. Its headquarters is located in Noida, UP. Its main function is to build the necessary infrastructure in the inland waterways, surveying the economic feasibility of new projects and also carrying out administration and regulation.