Q . India has now realized the potential of water transport and has begun moving in that direction. Discuss the role and potential of water transport in logistics. 3RD NOVEMBER,2020 (15 marks, 250 words, GS-3)



  • Beginning with the present status of water transport and what are the aims and expectations.
  • The next para could contain the importance and advantages.
  • Third para could be about the challenges and issues with water transport.
  • Final concluding para about how to improve and capitalize over water transport.

Historically, societies and cities began settling always close to water sources due to their strategic locations and economic benefits. Waterways have now developed into a complex network of connections between ports along the coasts as well as inland and have transformed into a world-class system of transportation.

In fiscal year 2019, the length of the navigable waterway in the eastern state of West Bengal in India was around 4.6 thousand kilometres, thereby being the largest navigable waterways state in the country. Tamil Nadu, on the other hand, had just 14 kilometres of navigable waterways. In 2019, the total number of ports across India stood at 224 including 12 major and 212 non-major ports.

India has about 14,500 km of navigable waterways which comprise of rivers, canals, backwaters, creeks, etc. About 55 million tonnes of cargo is being moved annually by IWT, a fuel-efficient and environment-friendly mode. As per the National Waterways Act 2016, 111 waterways have been declared as National Waterways (NWs). National Waterway-1 (Prayagraj- Haldia) with length 1620 km is the longest National waterway in India.

Water transport is the most easy and cheap mode of transport. Unlike rail and road transport we do not have to construct water ways because river and seas are given by nature. Water transport plays important role in case of international trade. During natural calamities like heavy rain and flood, when rail and road transport are not workable, rescue operations are undertaken by water transport.

The challenges with water transport includes-

  • Infrastructural development in port sector
  • Freight cost estimation is another hindrance.
  • Demand of waters in rivers for various needs put extra pressure for IWT.
  • Lack of night navigation infrastructure.
  • Number of inadequate industries also puts pressure on cargo facility cost, and is detrimental for private players
  • Environmental impact due to dredging etc.
  • Social impact especially on fishing community.

The government has come up with several initiatives and measures for promoting water transport including-

  • Jal margvikas
  • Sagarmala project
  • Interlinking of rivers
  • Digitisation of cargo infrastructure
  • Increasing safety measures by bar coding containment with real time monitoring.
  • Increasing capacity of ports.

The development on water transport is still in its preliminary phase in India. With over 14 thousand kilometres of navigable waterways, the potential for the development and efficient use of rivers for freight and passenger transport is tremendous. With proper infrastructure development, aided with the right initiatives and incentives from the government, this sector could unleash more potential.





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