The Odisha government is looking for private partners to develop Rs 5,000 crore National Waterways-5 (NW 5), that would interconnect Brahmani, Kharsuan and Mahanadi rivers to the east coast.
Chief Secretary J K Mohapatra is scheduled to convene a meeting soon on the project, which is expected to revolutionise cargo transport within the state.
The commerce and transport department has asked the Ports and Inland Water Transport directorate to prepare a concept paper for the project.
In April this year, the state government had begun consultation for development of the project by discussing with several funding agencies including World Bank, with the consent of Inland Waterway Authority of India (IWAI), the nodal implementing agency.
“Since there is a possibility that the project might get delayed as funding from World Bank is subject to thorough scrutiny, the state government proposed to develop the project on its own, by inviting private partners to part-fund the project,” said an official close to the development.
There are many stakeholders such as Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd (MCL), National Aluminium Company (Nalco) and private ports who could join the state government in developing the project, he added.
Of the 588 km long Waterways-5, the state government has identified a stretch of about 323 km from Talcher to Paradip and Dhamra as economically viable. 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 truck and rail, citing steep freight rate that pressurise their profit margins.
The IWAI had floated an expression of interest in 2010 inviting interested parties to develop NW5, but no progress has been made in this regard so far. The cost of the project has since escalated to over Rs 5,000 crore, from earlier estimate of Rs 3,800-crore.
The proposed waterway has been categorised 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 is 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 through 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 as well as finished goods and manufactured products like fertilisers, cement, sugar, salt, asbestos sheets and textiles can be transported through this waterway.