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Inland waterways a good transport option, says study

Sankar Radhakrishnan

Thiruvananthapuram , Aug. 26

WITH over 1,800 km of navigable stretches, Kerala's inland waterways have the potential to be a low-cost transport option for the State. More important, the State's waterways sector has the potential to become a major source of employment, says a study by the Thiruvananthapuram-based National Transportation Planning and Research Centre (NATPAC).

Kerala's inland waterways sector directly employs between 1.5 lakh and 2 lakh people in the operation and maintenance of boats, the study says. And for each person directly employed in the waterways sector, at least two other people are indirectly employed in allied activities such as boat building, servicing of boats, tourism and so on, the study adds.

The study was carried out by Mr T. Elangovan, Director, NATPAC and Mr G.C. Das Gupta, Deputy Chief Project Coordinator, NATPAC, and is based on fieldwork in Kerala's Alappuzha and Kochi regions.

It examined both direct and indirect employment opportunities in the State's inland waterways sector, and also looked at the employment-investment ratio for different components of the waterways sector in Kerala.

Details for 2003 were obtained from the State Water Transport Department, Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation (KSINC) and various private boat operators.

The study says that despite its inherent advantages, inland water transport continues to a neglected sub-sector of the transport system in Kerala. There is a need to give greater emphasis to this mode of transport in plan allocations in the State, the study adds.

Kerala's inland water transport sector handles 1.4 per cent of the total goods traffic and 1.65 per cent of the passenger traffic in the State, says the study. With proper development of the State's waterways, this can be increased, the study adds.

On the employment-investment parameter, the study found that passenger boats operated in Alappuzha by the State Water Transport Department on an average generated 873.45 man-days per lakh of rupees invested. Similarly, passenger boats operated by KSINC generated 566.6 man-days per lakh of rupees invested, while its cargo boats generated 437 man-days per lakh of rupees invested.

According to the study, private boat operators generated 250 man-days per lakh of rupees invested for their passenger boat operations, while their cargo boats generated 490 man-days per lakh of rupees invested.

The operators of private boats, including houseboats, generated 17 lakh man-days in the last year, the study adds. Boat manufacture created another 1.5 lakh man-days of employment last year, with 311 many-days of employment per lakh of rupees invested, the study adds.

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