Transportation Current Affairs - 2020

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Lok Sabha passes Central Road Fund (Amendment) Bill, 2017

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.

Need

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.

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Government extends period of Coastal Berth Scheme

The Union Ministry of Shipping has extended period of Coastal Berth scheme of flagship Sagarmala Programme for three years upto March, 2020. Besides, its scope was also expanded to cover capital dredging at Major Ports and preparation of detailed project report (DPR) for coastal berth project. India has high potential to use coastal shipping for its internal cargo movement given its 7500 kms long coastline.

Key Facts

The projects under Coastal Berth Scheme are distributed over eight states with highest number of projects in Maharashtra (12 projects), Andhra Pradesh and Goa (10 projects), Karnataka (6 projects), Kerala and Tamil Nadu (3 projects), Gujarat (2 projects) and West Bengal (1 project).

Out of 47 projects, 23 projects worth Rs. 1075.61 crore have been sanctioned for total financial assistance of Rs. 390.42 crore and Rs. 230.01 crore has been released to major ports, state maritime boards and state governments. The remaining 24 projects are under various stages of development and process of approval.

Coastal Berth Scheme

It aims to provide financial support to ports or state governments for creation of infrastructure for movement of cargo and passenger by sea or national waterways. The admissible financial assistance under the scheme from Central Government is 50% of  total cost of project.

The financial assistance is also provided for preparation of DPRs for projects considered under this scheme. The balance expenditure will be incurred by respective Ports/concerned State Governments (including State Maritime Boards) from their own resources.

Projects under the scheme will help to promote coastal shipping and increase its share in domestic cargo movement in India. Better infrastructure for coastal shipping built under it will help to decongest rail and road network besides ensuring cost competitive and effective multi-modal transportation solution.

 Sagarmala Project

The Sagarmala project aims to promote port-led development along India’s 7500 km long coastline by developing string of ports around  coast. It envisages transforming existing ports into modern world class ports as well as developing new ones. It also aims to develop efficient evacuation systems through road, rail, inland and coastal waterways. The Ministry of Shipping is nodal ministry for this initiative.

Three key components of Sagarmala project are Port Modernization, Efficient Evacuation Systems and Coastal Economic Development. It aims to develop access to new development regions with intermodal solutions and enhanced connectivity with main economic centres and beyond.

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