Th e Narendra Modi government has drawn up an ambitious 25,000-crore plan to create a national waterway grid linking Ganga, Brahmputra, Mahanadi and Godavari rivers. Th e plan is ready … We will soon move a formal proposal, a senior shipping ministry offi cial said, adding that the underlying objective is to enable water from big perennial Himalayan rivers to fl ow into peninsular ones generally have strong seasonal fl ows. Nitin Gadkari, the new minister for roads and shipping in the BJP government, has given an in-principle clearance to the eight-year project, which aims to ensure high water levels in rivers through the year, improving their role in crop irrigation and making them navigable. Th ewaterway grid will also help control fl oods. Th e proposed grid will have road linkages to ports to facilitate faster movement of cargo. It will create a network of passageways in a large part of the country in rivers that are navigable, the offi cial added. In 2002, the NDA government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee had set up a task force to look into inter-linking of rivers. Th e same year, the Supreme Court ordered the constitution of a committee to take the idea forward. Th e plan, however, could not take off in earnest. It was only recently that the Rajasthan government started a pilot project to take the idea forward. Five inland waterways have already been declared as national waterways, though only three are operational so far. Th e shipping ministry has also readied Cabinet notes for a coastal shipping policy aimed at cheaper and faster movement of cargo among the nine coastal states.

On its part, the Inland Waterways Authority has written to state governments to plan roads keeping in view waterways falling in their states. Th e shipping ministry successfully bucked slowdown in 2013- 14 and awarded 30 projects worth INR 20,709.93 crore that would lead to the creation of 217.57 mtpa capacity in the country.

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