Converting existing rivers into waterways will propel economic growth as it is a cheaper mode to transport cargo and with this objective in mind, government has set the target to convert 101 rivers into waterways, Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari said.

"In the next Parliament session, the Bill will be introduced," Gadkari said.

Promoting waterways is the top-most priority of the Ministry as it will ease the burden from road and rail network besides being cost-effective and eco-friendly, he said.

"Unfortunately, this mode of transport is yet to be tapped in the country whereas this mode accounts for 47 per cent of China's transportation and 40 per cent of Europe's transport.

"The total transportation cost through waterways comes to barely 30 paise/km in comparison to Re 1/km through railways and Rs 1.5/km through road. Unfortunately, this mode of transport is yet to be tapped in our country," Gadkari said.

Even Japan and Korea depend on waterways, he said, adding that in India it is a minimal 3.3 per cent, of which 3 per cent is coastal transport and remaining 0.3 per cent is inland transport.

The government has so far declared only five river stretches as waterways. For 55 rivers, consultants have been appointed and detailed project reports (DPR) will be formulated once necessary approvals were sought, he added.

The projects will be done on public-private-partnership basis, he said. Inland waterways comprising rivers, lakes, canals, creeks, and backwaters extend to about 14,500 kms in the country.

However, potential of this mode of transport has not been fully exploited so far. The government has already decided to launch projects for setting up dry and satellite ports, besides converting rivers into waterways.

Five National Waterways are Ganga-Bhagirathi-Hooghly river system (Allahabad-Haldia-1620 kms); river Brahmaputra (Dhubri-Sadiya-891 kms); West Coast Canal (Kottapuram-Kollam) along with Udyogmandal and Champakara Canals-(205 kms); Kakinada-Puducherry canals along with Godavari and Krishna rivers (1,078 kms) and East Coast Canal integrated with Brahmani river and Mahanadi delta rivers (588 kms).

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