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The government will move a Bill in Parliament during the upcoming Monsoon Session to enable allocation of about Rs 2,000 crore from Central Road Fund for developing inland waterways, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari has said. Parliament had last year enacted National Waterways (NWs) Act, 2016, for developing and maintaining the existing five NWs and 106 new NWs across the country. "We will move the Central Road Fund (Amendment) Bill, 2017 during the upcoming Monsoon session of Parliament," the Road Transport and Highways Minister told PTI. "Once enacted, it will give a big boost to our waterways as cargo transportation through water is a much cheaper and cleaner way of transportation.
It will bring down logistics cost that is very high," Gadkari said. The Cabinet in May had accorded approval to a joint proposal by the shipping ministry and the road transport and highways ministry for amending the Central Road Fund Act, 2000, to allocate 2.5 per cent of the proceeds of CRF for development and maintenance of NWs and a reduction in the share provided for development of National Highways. CRF is made up of cess on petrol and high speed diesel. The cess at present is Rs 6 per litre. The Cabinet also directed that while implementing viable National Waterways projects, all such components that can be done on PPP basis, should be explored and government funding may be used only if private investment is not forthcoming. The fund collected under CRF was Rs 80,800 crore in 2016 -17, Rs 69,540 crore in 2015-16 and Rs 25,122 crore in 2014- 15. Gadkari said an allocation of 2.5 per cent of CRF proceeds would provide approximately Rs 2,000 crore per annum for the development and maintenance of NWs. The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) has estimated that approximately Rs 25,000 crore would be required for development of identified projects on NWs till 2022-23. In this regard, works for construction of multi-modal terminals, new navigation lock, River Information System and development of fairway have already commenced under the Jal Marg Vikas Project being implemented on NW-1 (River Ganga). Gadkari said work worth Rs 5,000 crore is underway to develop various projects on the Ganga with World Bank assistance, including development of multi-modal hubs IWAI, under the shipping ministry, is also facilitating cruise operations on National Waterways-1 from Kolkata to Varanasi in collaboration with private cruise operators. The facilities, provided by the IWAI, include navigation aids, including night navigation facility, embarking and disembarking at designated locations, facilitating expeditious crossing of the Farakka Navigation Lock, pilotage and assistance in distress. In addition to becoming one of the principal cargo movement routes in India, this stretch on NW-1 has good potential for river cruise tourism. IWAI also has planned to undertake work on the development of 24 NWs during the next three years. The government estimates that 1.8 lakh persons would be provided employment in the Inland Waterways Transport (IWT) sector in the next five years. Gadkari said IWT will also help divert traffic from the over-congested roads and railways as well as offer incentive and provide certainty for private companies to invest in the sector.
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