Water Transport Tourism: A shot in the Arm for economic development


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Better late than never, India has at last looked at the great opportunity of increasing its revenue by tapping the unused bounty awarded to it in the form of water resources by nature. Except a few small states like Goa, many other states have not earlier even thought of how they could attract and add revenue by improving the water tourism in the state.

In fact even the countries who have no sea, very few rivers and no water canals, back waters among others had focused long back to tap this unexplored opportunity to increase its revenue by means of water transport, water tourism and add to the economic development of the country. 

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India is now serious enough to augment and attract tourism with the planned use of river transport, cruising, water sports, events, cultural programmes on board among others.


Good alternate of Rail & Road transport

Water Transport is a good alternative to increase the movement of goods and passengers. The volume can be increased 5 times from the current three and a half percent to more than 15 percent by 2019. The share of water transport in the countries like Britain, Germany, France, China, South Korea is between 30 to 40 percent. The Union Shipping and Transport Minister Mr Nitin Gadkari has announced that development of inland waterways and coastal shipping is in the priority list of the Government.


Cost effective and high revenue project

The development of waterways would reduce the logistics cost. This will enable India to compete in the International market effectively. According to Mr Gadkari , “Coastal shipping and inland water transport is a fuel efficient, environment friendly and cost effective mode, especially for bulk goods. While the road transportation cost per km is Rs.1.50 and for the Railways it is Re.1, for waterways, it would be 25 to 30 paise” Waterways to boost economy and exports


Other means of transport are adding 30 percent to the cost of any product exported from India. It makes our products uncompetitive in Global market. With the help of water transport, this cost can be reduced.  The need is to spread awareness. The Minister said “The government is working on a priority basis to bring down the logistics cost and increase exports.”


Accordingly, the coastal shipping system has to be made development-oriented. India also needs to implement fast-track decision-making which will come about only when people change their mindset.


Vision Document Ready
According to Mr Gadkari, the Shipping Ministry had prepared a vision document on coastal shipping, tourism and regional development to increase the share of inland water transport and coastal shipping, development of regional centres to generate cargo for coastal traffic and promotion of cruise tourism. Key features of it are:

  • To encourage transportation of goods by coastal shipping, service tax has been brought on par with road and rail transport.
  • The government has relaxed cabotage (right to operate transport services within a particular territory) for specialised vessels like Ro-Ro, Hybrid Ro-Ro, car carriers and truck carriers for a period of five years.
  • Ministry has taken several initiatives to promote shipping with an aim to add 2 per cent to the GDP and create 50 lakh jobs.
  • Steps are taken for the modernisation, mechanisation and computerisation of the coastal shipping system to promote transparency and eliminate corruption
  • The government has taken a decision to start three major ports at a cost of Rs.18,000 crore to Rs.20,000 crore to develop the ports. These include a port at Wadhwan near Dahanu in Maharashtra, Colachel Port near Kanyakumari and the Sagar Island Port in West Bengal. The Wadhwan Port will be built as a joint venture between JNPT and the Maharashtra Maritime Board, and was intended to decongest the overburdened JNPT Port at Nhava Sheva.

Waterways to attract tourism

Ancient and forgotton waterways are proposed to be revived to promote heritage tourism. These waterways used to be the life line of Urban development in the prominent states of Kerala, Delhi, West Bengal among others.


To revive the water tourism and water transport system, 'Greenway Concept', has been drawn up by a group of heritage planners and architects in Delhi. It proposes developing the 19 natural storm drains and its numerous tributaries into landscaped heritage zones and inland waterways to promote heritage tourism. When it comes into force Yamuna in Delhi will be a means of transport, transport, tourism and revenue generation.


The water channels will be converted into eco-friendly recreational spaces for sustainable development. In addition it will reduce waterlogging and the heat island effect and will make space for car parks and new arterial roads. The heat island effect is a warming phenomenon that sparks temperature variations within the city when natural water channels are blocked. It helps to reduce the effect. 

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The Ganges: Longest and most favoured means of water tourism

Waterway is a viable option for sustainable urban development. There are three major inland waterways under consideration for revival with the purpose of commercial transportation - the 4,500-km Himalayan waterways project, the 5,750-km central waterways project and the 4,625-km southern waterways project.


The Central Inland Water Transport Corporation, which looks after inland water transport in West Bengal, uses the Hooghly (Ganges) river to transport freight to Ganga Sagar, Diamond Harbour, Bangladesh, Guwahati, Haldia Port, Patna and Allahabad.


However, the Kolkata city's inland waterway - the Adi Ganga Canal, once a thriving 19th century port near Kalighat - is no longer navigable. A private cruise company, Kolkata-based Vivada Cruise is promoting heritage river tourism along 1,000 km of the Hooghly river that meanders through the landmarks of colonial Bengal - right up to the Gangetic delta of the Sundarbans, a Unesco world heritage site. '


Varanasi, the heritage city proposes to encourage water tourism with night cruises and cultural programmes on board.


The network with 22 Indian and several foreign members support Indian cities in their endeavour to use heritage resources for sustainable development. Inland waterways were in use even during the Indus Valley civilisation nearly 5,000 years ago. 

Kerala: Reviving Waterways

Kerala is reviving two of its major urban waterways as inland transport systems and heritage trails. The government has already started work on the 74-km TS canal that connects the beach resort of Kovalam to historic Kollam. A part of the state's National Waterway-III from Kollam to Kottapuram via Kochi, is its central to the Southern Waterways Project that aims to link Maharashtra to Kanyakumari across four states.


With an aim to encourage water transport and attract water tourism, the Government is focusing on the rivers which are once again coming out to become part the urban tourism on the lines of Switzerland which is now making intense use of its natural waterways.


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