Varanasi terminal-an ambitious project to speed up economy.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi received the first container vessel sailed from Kolkata for Varanasi on October 30, carrying cargo belonging to PepsiCo (India) on the Ganga river.
PM Modi's reception of the vessel launched the first multi-modal terminal on the Ganga river in Varanasi under a project aimed at promoting inland waterways as a cheaper and more environment-friendly means of transport.
The multi-modal terminals are being built as part of the central government's Jal Marg Vikas Project (JMVP) that aims to develop the stretch of the river Ganga between Varanasi and Haldia for navigation of large vessels weighing up to 1,500-2,000 tonnes. The JMVP entails construction of three multimodal terminals (Varanasi, Sahibganj and Haldia); two intermodal terminals; five roll on-roll off terminal pairs; new navigation lock at Farakka; assured depth dredging; integrated vessel repair and maintenance facility, differential global positioning system, river information system, river training and river conservancy works.
The inland waterways will be a critical addition to the country's infrastructure and will boost economy.
The terminal will help correct India's transport modal mix that imposes huge logistics cost on the economy. At 15 percent of GDP, the logistics costs in India are about twice in the US, according to the shipping ministry. According to a ministry official, as reported, the cost of transportation by waterways is 30-50 paisa per tonne per km (PTPK) only, compared to Rs 1 PTPK for rail, and Rs 1.5 PTPK for road. That's an attractive offering for state governments as well as private businesses. Stone chips, cement, food grains, fertilisers, sugar, etc. are some of the items expected to be shipped through waterways.
The Varanasi terminal will reinforce a major transport artery of India. It will enable movement of cargo from Ludhiana in Punjab to Haldia in West Bengal and further east as it will complement the Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor (EDFC) project. EDFC is a freight-specific railway corridor which will run from Ludhiana to Dankuni in West Bengal.
The major logistics boost in the eastern India will also favour India's trade with its eastern neighbours. National Waterways 1, along with proposed EDFC and NH-2, constitutes the eastern transport corridor of India connecting the National Capital Region (NCR) with the eastern and north-eastern states. It will function as a link to Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Nepal and other east and south-east Asian countries through the Kolkata Port and Indo-Bangladesh Protocol Route.