Waterways are an important mode of transport for both passenger and cargo traffic in India. It is the cheapest means of transport and is most suitable for carrying heavy and bulky material. It is a fuel-efficient and eco-friendly mode of transport. The water transport is of two types– (a) inland waterways, and (b) oceanic waterways.
It was the chief mode of transport before the advent of railways. It, however, faced tough competition from road and railway transport. Moreover, diversion of river water for irrigation purposes made them non navigable in large parts of their courses. India has 14,500 km of navigable waterways, contributing about 1% to the country’s transportation. It comprises rivers, canals, backwaters, creeks, etc. At present, 5,685 km of major rivers are navigable by mechanised flat bottom vessels.
The Inland Water Authority
The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) came into existence on 27th October 1986 for development and regulation of inland waterways for shipping and navigation. The Authority primarily undertakes projects for development and maintenance of Inland Waterways Transport infrastructure on national waterways through grant received from Ministry of Shipping. The head office of the Authority is at Noida. The Authority also has its regional offices at Patna, Kolkata, Guwahati and Kochi and sub-offices at Allahabad, Varanasi, Bhaglapur, Farakka, Hemnagar, Dibrugarh (Assam), Kollam, Chennai, Bhubaneswar and Vijayawada(A.P.). India has about 14,500 km of navigable waterways which comprise of rivers, canals, backwaters, creeks, etc.
India has a vast coastline of approximate 7,517 km, including islands. Twelve major and 185 minor ports provide infrastructural support to these routes. Oceanic routes play an important role in the transport sector of India’s economy. Approximately 95 per cent of India’s foreign trade by volume and 70 per cent by value moves through ocean routes. Apart from international trade, these are also used for the purpose of transportation between the islands and the rest of the country.