Business Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Monday, Oct 30, 2006
Logistics - Shipping
Making the NW-3 navigable
V. Sajeev Kumar
Several companies are interested in moving such cargoes as cashew, river sand, furnace oil, caustic soda and chemicals on the NW-3 as their plants are located near the waterway. But various bottlenecks are delaying the development of the waterway to its full potential.
AT PRESENT, some 13 lakh tonnes of bulk cargo, consisting of sulphur, rock phosphate, petroleum products, is transported through NW-3 every year.
At a time when the Centre is seriously considering steps for implementing smart waterways in Kerala, inland waterways operators in the State are concerned about the slow pace of the various development activities on the National Waterway-3.
Most operators allege lack of co-ordination among the various governmental agencies in the State to solve various issues of encroachments, bottlenecks in land acquisition and clearing of fishing nets that is hindering the development of the waterway extending some 205 km between Kottappuram to Kollam. Though the authorities declared the NW-3 a national waterway in 1993, only the stretch between Kochi and Alappuzha (63 km) is navigable.
According to the operators, lack of draught at several stretches requires extensive dredging and it would be difficult to move even 200-tonne barges through the waterway. Transportation via the waterway will be economical only if barges with a capacity of above 500 tonnes can be moved. A good portion of the cargo and passenger traffic, which moves through congested roads and rail, will then be able to use the NW-3, once the waterway is ready.
It may be recalled that the Shipping Minister, Mr T. R. Baalu, at a meeting held here last year had asked the district administrations of Ernakulam, Alappuzha and Kollam to take steps to settle the disputes connected with the waterway's development. However, much more effort is needed.
Starting from Kottapuram, the first bottleneck is at Cherai, where dredging has to be done. The Alappuzha-Kollam stretch and Kuttanad have to be widened and dredged. The Minister had even said that the NW-3 could be extended to Kasargod and Kovalam if the State government took steps to clear encroachments between Kottappuram and Kollam.
The operators allege the non-support from government agencies for deepening the waterway as the main hurdle faced by the Inland Waterways Authority of India for the development of the waterway.
A senior official of an inland water transporting company said the IWAI had completed acquisition of land in various areas to widen the waterway. But in the absence of dredging works, there is no point in moving the cargo, as a draught of at least 2.5 metres is required for the smooth movement of cargo.
Several companies, including various public sector units, have evinced interest in moving such cargoes as raw cashew, river sand, furnace oil, caustic soda and chemicals as their plants are located near the waterway. There will be tremendous development of business once the waterway is developed to its full potential.
Some of the operators allege that the procedural delay in getting things done from governmental agencies is affecting the development works. They point out that the IWAI had constructed several cargo terminals in various parts. But there is no sufficient facility for loading and unloading works. It is difficult to unload bulk commodities due to lack of facilities and the operators have to spend more for manual work.
Likewise, the fishing nets erected at various stretches pose a serious threat to the development of the waterway. The removal of the nets will be a social issue as it would affect the livelihood of fisherfolk. To avoid this, the government should initiate steps with the Fisheries Department to settle the issue amicably by providing sufficient compensation to the affected people.
Senior IWAI officials in Kochi admitted that the obstacles, such as the fishing nets, objections for dumping dredged materials, etc., are affecting the development works particularly on the Alappuzha-Kollam stretch. Several firms are interested in bringing barges in for IWT movement. But the support of the State Government is needed for the work. "The question is not the cargo or barge movement but to make the channel navigable by removing all bottlenecks," an official said.
Scope For More Cargo
The development of waterway, according to officials, is 75 per cent complete while 50 per cent of the route is suitable for day and night operation of barges and boats.
Construction of terminals has been completed at seven locations. The remaining works are under implementation, which is scheduled to be completed by 2008. At present, some 13 lakh tonnes of bulk cargo, consisting of sulphur, rock phosphate, petroleum products, is transported through NW-3 every year. There is scope for movement of other cargo once the development works are completed, they added.
According to the officials, instead of involving several governmental agencies, the State government could set up a separate wing to settle the disputes connected with the waterway works.
Referring to the removal of fishing nets by paying compensation, the officials said that there is still confusion between the State and Central government on who should pay.
The IWAI had submitted a proposal for removing fishing nets, both authorised and unauthorised. However, the State government was yet to taken an initiative in this regard, the officials added.
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