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The government of Maharashtra has asked the Union ministry of shipping that a particular waterway, channel or creek not be assigned for only a particular activity, and that state maritime boards be allowed to choose the activity, based on their need.
The issue came up in the case of JSW Dharamtar Port Pvt Ltd, a Special Purpose Vehicle to handle the proposed export-import cargo of JSW Steel's Dolvi works. The company is a major user of the Dharamtar creek and brings shipments on the mouth of the waterway. The plant produces 3.2 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) of steel and generates 55 Mw of power, together involving the handling of 8.24 mtpa of cargo. Raw material for steel making is received at the existing 331.5 metre jetty, owned and operated by JSW Dharamtar Port.
Under the National Waterways Act, the central government has the right to declare any waterway, canal, river, etc, as a national waterway. "Once a water body is declared a national waterway, a couple of rights come into play - the right of water and land and soil under water remains with the states and any development that takes place on a particular waterway project will be approved by IWAI (Inland Waterways Authority of India)," a maritime expert told Business Standard.
For any movement under the Inland Vessels Act, any barge, cargo or vessel that plies on the waterways, implementation is with states, he said, adding the model rules are laid out by IWAI.
The latter has plans which include seeking extra budgetary support from the government, market borrowing and through PPP (public-private-partnership). Earlier this year, IWAI announced raising of Rs 340 crore through a maiden bond issue from the market.
Broader plans include developing of 101 waterways, delayed due to difficulties in pre-feasibility and techno-economic feasibility studies, in land acquisition and in coordination with states government.