Industry body Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has urged the state and central government to speed up the proposed inland waterway project that aims to connect several coal and iron ore mines to port areas in Odisha. The project is yet to see the light of the day since its proposal made in 2008.
“The rail and road are conventional modes of transportation all over the world. But it is also important that we should develop the inland water routes which will connect key industrial hubs with ports,” said S K Mohapatra, chief executive officer of Dhamra Port Company Ltd (DPCL).
Mohapatra delivered the presidential address at ‘Bridge-2012’, a seminar on state of transport infrastructure organized by CII.
The inland waterway project was declared National Waterway 5 (NW-5) by the Government of India on November 25, 2008, which is also known as East Coast Canal, that integrates Brahmani and Mahanadi delta river systems.
The Inland Waterway Authority of India (IWAI) had floated an expression of interest in 2010, inviting project developers but no progress has been made since then. The state government is planning to request the Planning Commission of India for including the Rs 3,800-crore water transport project under the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17).
The industry body was also unhappy with the Central government's decision that from the current Five Year Plan, the private developers will also have to spend money for river deepening along with building terminals on the river banks.
“Deepening of rivers involves huge cost and will take about two decades to recover it. Therefore, the private developers will not be interested to develop the project and the Central government should take over the work as it was there in the previous Five Year Plan,” said Mohapatra.
The proposed waterway will run from Talcher via Kalinganagar industrial area to Mangalgadi (a point in between Paradip and Dhamra) and would connect Paradip to Dhamra to a point near Kolkata.
NW-5 is crucial for export of coal from Talcher region and iron ore from northern Odisha as the miners are currently reluctant to send the minerals to ports through trucks, citing steep freight rate that pressurized their profit margins, said Mohapatra.
The miners depended upon the Railways to evacuate mineral products. However, due to capacity constraints, the Railways, too, stressed on the need for developing waterways.
“It is a necessity to develop inland waterway projects in the eastern region, which would support the cargo movement along with the rail transports,” Satyaki Nath, director (coal movement), Eastern Railways.
The proposed waterway has been categorized into three stretches - Talcher to Mangalgadi (237 km), Dhamra to Paradip (95 km) and Dhamra to Geonkhali (256 km). The Brahmani, Kharsua and Mahanadi river systems mainly constitute the river portion to be developed for the proposed waterway.
The waterway passes through major towns like Talcher, Paradip and Dhamara in the river section and Bhadrak, Balasore, Jaleswar and Haldia in the canal section.
The project was scheduled to be completed in eight years. Coal from Talcher to Dhamra and Paradip ports is the most important potential cargo for this waterway. It is estimated that about 11 million tonnes of cargo can be transported per year after the development of this waterway which can go up to 23 million tonnes per annum in the next 10 years.
Besides key minerals like coal and iron ore, agricultural products like paddy, rice, jute, coconut and fish products as well as finished goods and manufactured products like fertilizers, cement, sugar, salt, asbestos sheets and textiles are likely to use this waterway.