National Waterways Bill

National Waterways Bill aims to re-define transportation infrastructure in India. It adds 106 inland waterways to list of national waterways, taking total number to 111.

National Waterways

  • India has about 14,500 km of navigable waterways comprising of rivers, canals, backwaters, creeks, etc.
  • According to official estimates, about 34 percent of Indian cargo is currently trans-shipped through international hub ports, resulting in revenue loss for Indian ports as well as high costs on customer side.
  • Most EU nations and countries like China have maintained and upgraded their river systems on important routes to support large vessels.
  • Bangladesh has increased its freight movement through waterways to 35 percent.
  • India however, struggles to create depth in its river systems and evolve effective de-silting processes to accommodate even medium or small-sized vessels.

National Waterways Bill | Benefits

  • Environmental Aspect: Transportation of cargo through inland waterways helps to rein in carbon emissions
  • Human Resource: Transportation of cargo through inland waterways helps curbs rate of road accidents.
  • Quantitative Edge: In terms of quantity, inland waterways can move five times more cargo than roadways and railways.
  • Cost Effectiveness: Construction and maintenance of waterways system is also cheaper to build and maintain.

National Waterways Bill | Near Future Plan

  • To develop new Greenfield ports on both the country’s coasts.
  • To expedite work on National Waterways Project, which proposes ‘to have waterways covering entire nation, just like national highways.
  • To set up 2,000 water ports, and Roll-on-Roll-off (RoRo) services at five select places in India to transport goods and vehicles, across India.
  • There is huge potential for water transport.
  • Under this project, Varanasi, Haldia and Sahibganj will be developed as multi-modal hubs with roadways, waterways and railways.
  • To construct inland waterways on Ganga, between Varanasi and Haldia, supported with 30 water ports.
  • Under ‘Sagarmala Project’, aim is to develop port infrastructure along country’s 7,500-km coastline.

National Waterways Bill | Change in Cabotage Law 

  • Due to lack of Indian RoRo vessels, 60 percent of India’s export and import containers are transhipped through ports like Singapore and Colombo, which involves huge expenditure and extra transit time.
  • So, change in Cabotage Law will definitely change the game.

National Waterways Bill | Gains

STRATEGIC GAINS: It may end Colombo’s monopoly in transhipment in South Asia and attract international carriers to operate in Indian waters. Moreover, Colombo’s China-backed ports have long unnerved India’s strategic community. Challenge remains to establish robust waterways systems bypassing problems like, seasonal river flows, dry summers, low height bridges obstructing traffic and diverting river navigation without hurting irrigation and drinking water needs, the benefits are surely worth taking that plunge.

MONETARY GAIN: More trade means Forex.

ECONOMIC GAIN: More employment generation and flip to other construction based sectors like iron, steel and cement.

 So, a delayed but fortunately a step in right direction giving India an edge in the age of global competitive trade.

[1] Cabotage is transport of goods between two points in  same country.

Sagarmala Project

Sagarmala Project | Background

  • India is bound by sea on three sides with 7th largest coastline in world.
  • Whereas railways contribute 9% to GDP, road sector contributes 6%, ports’ share of GDP is only 1%! This contradiction reflects vast potential for development of coastal cities and ports.
  • India suffers from poor port linkages, under performance of existing port infrastructure and lack of developed infrastructure near ports, for value addition of inbound or outbound merchandise.
  • Along with this, an inefficient inter-modal transport connectivity results in high cost of logistics and exports.
  • Government has therefore prioritized development of coastal cities, along with existing and new port development, as growth drivers.

Sagarmala Project | Shortcomings

  • Unfortunately, India has not focused on developing coastal and port infrastructure in an integrated manner that would have realized its full potential.
  • Today, most ports lack adequate cargo handling infrastructure.
  • Ship turnaround time is poor compared to most other developed international ports.
  • Loading-unloading processes are cumbersome.
  • Rail and road connectivity to hinterland is inadequate.
  • Industrial centers near port locations that can offer value addition are also lacking.

Sagarmala Project | Three Pillars

  • Modernizing port infrastructure.
  • Developing integrated transport infrastructure for connecting coast to hinterland.
  • Current Infrastructure Scenario

Sagarmala Project | Integrated Development

  • 12 smart cities to be developed near ports as integrated townships with affordable housing and green initiatives for sustainable living.
  • 1,208 islands identified for development along with 189 light houses to boost both domestic and international tourism significantly.
  • Coastal Economic Zones (CEZs), with modern support infrastructure and adequate fiscal incentives, to be established to give boost to economic activity near coastal locations. For instance, Kandla Port in Gujarat.
  • Redevelopment of existing port infrastructure through upgrade in port handling equipment and extensive use of IT in improving monitoring and operations of port activity. For instance, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust.
  • To identify suitable port locations with deep drafts to enhance shipping and port handling capacity.
  • Specialised ports with focus on handling coal, energy, chemicals, commodities, etc., to be developed.
  • Development and linking of short-sea shipping, coastal shipping and inland waterways transportation to get due attention.
  • Further development of ship building, ship repair and ship recycling industry to also be a priority.
  • Enhanced development of offshore drilling and storage platforms is another objective.
  • Developing logistics parks and warehousing near coastal locations to support port activity. 
  • With long coastline, India offers great potential for developing offshore renewable energy and government has accorded due priority to attract investment in this area – power so generated will feed coastal activity and also contribute to national grid.

Sagarmala Project | National Perspective Plan

  • To identify suitable geographical locations along coast to develop as CEZs.
  • To synergise and integrate CEZs with various existing development initiatives like National Highways Development, Inland Waterways, Smart Cities, SEZs, Industrial Corridors and Dedicated Freight Corridors.

Sagarmala Project | Institutional Structure

  • Apex level: Sagarmala Coordination and Steering Committee (SCSC) under chairmanship of Cabinet Secretary with Secretaries from Ministry of Shipping, Road Transport and Highways, Industrial Policy and Promotion, Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Revenue, Expenditure, Defence, Home Affairs, Chairman Railway Board and CEO of NITI Aayog.
  • SCSC to ensure fund availability and oversee smooth coordination among various arms of central government and state governments and agencies.
  • Federal structure: States to play a major role in implementing and facilitating development in their respective areas – State Sagarmala Committee (SSC) headed by Chief Minister or Minister in charge of Ports.
  • To facilitate investments in CEZs and port development activities, government is open to set Special Purposes Vehicles (SPVs).
  • Central government proposes to establish Sagarmala Development Company (SDC), under Companies Act 1956 to extend equity support to SPVs operating in various states.

Sagarmala Project | Proposed Ports

West Bengal Sagar Island
Tamil Nadu Colachel
Gujarat Wadhwan
Karnataka Tadadi
Andhra Pradesh Machilipatnam


Hydrology Project is one of the major undertakings of the Indian Government. Below is the sumarry of the Hydrology Project.

Hydrology Project | Basic Facts

  • World Bank aided Hydrology Project – implemented in two phases including Hydrology Project (1995-2003) and Hydrology Project II (2004-2014).
  • Central to improve planning, development, and management of water resources, as well as flood forecasting and reservoir operations in real-time.
  • Led to a significant change in availability and reliability of hydro-meteorological data in India.
  • Now water resources development projects (such as hydraulic structure construction, irrigation development through surface water and/or groundwater) and other infrastructure developments are based on accurate information, and thus designed appropriately and economically.
  • Reservoir operation is based on real time hydrological information in catchment and is integrated with climate forecast which would minimize likelihood of floods and ensure availability of water for various uses.
  • Hydrology Project has benefitted nine States (Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Tamil Nadu) and 6 central agencies (Ministry of Water Resources-MoWR, Central Water Commission-CWC, Central Ground Water Board-CGWB, Central Water and Power Research Station-CWPRS, National Institute of Hydrology-NIH, India Meteorological Department-IMD) during Phase I while four new states (Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Pondicherry and Punjab) and two central agencies (Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) joined during Phase II.
  • Offered a platform for water agencies all over India to learn from each other, which motivated them to modernize existing hydro-meteorological monitoring systems from manual to Real Time Data Acquisition Systems (RTDAS) as well as develop tools for Integrated Water Resources Planning and Management for enhancing productivity and cost effectiveness of water related investments.


Development of Hydrological Information System (HIS)

  • HIS includes development of networks of hydro-meteorological stations and data management systems for surface water, groundwater and water quality.
  • Networks of Hydro-meteorological Stations Extended observation networks (for measuring hydro-meteorological parameters) with improved technology for reliable and accurate measurement – including automation with RTDAS, which transmit data directly to data processing centres were developed in various parts of country.
  • RTDAS for hydrological monitoring includes radar type water level recorders for rivers and reservoirs, snow gauges, Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers (ADCP), and additional Digital Water Level Recorders (DWLR) for groundwater well.

Web-based Data Management System

  • Web-based software have been developed to modernize desktop based data entry, processing, storage and dissemination systems into a centralized database management system to ensure uniformity in HIS procedures across states and regions.
  • Users in state and central agencies are enabled to enter and process data on-line, within their own virtual data repository.
  • Systems are aimed to centralize operation and maintenance cost of system while states would require only computer and internet to upload and access data.

Surface Water Information System (e-SWIS)

  • Under coordination of CWC, e-SWIS has been developed with an objective to enable easily access to hydro-meteorological database by multiple agencies through internet.
  • System replicates functionalities of previous Surface Water Date Entry System (SWDES), Hydrological Modelling System (HYMOS) and WISDOM systems.

Groundwater Estimation and Management System (e-GEMS)

  • eGEMS system is an internet based central repository and data processing tool for groundwater related data (such as water level, water quality, exploration, geophysics and GIS data).
  • It replicates functionalities of previous Ground Water Data Entry System (GWDES and) GEMS systems.
  • CGWB is coordinating agency to maintain centralized server system.

GIS based web-Portal for Water Quality Data (e-WQIS)

  • eWQIS is an internet based web portal for publishing real-time water quality data from automated water quality stations.
  • Portal enhances accessibility of data by end users – CPCB, PCBs and general public, and enables users to receive data summaries and review historical data.

River Basin Planning and Management Tools

  • Decision support system for water resources planning, reservoir operation system for flood management and hydrologic design aids have been developed under project.
  • These tools enable decision makers and water resources management agencies in integrated planning and management of river basins and enhance productivity and cost effectiveness of water related investments.
  • Decision Support System (DSS) for Water Resources Planning and Management Under aegis of NIH and assisted by consultants, extensive software aimed at providing DSS for integrated water resources planning, development and management was developed.
  • Modules in DSS (P) includes surface water planning, groundwater use planning, integrated reservoir operation, irrigation management, drought monitoring, assessment and management, planning of conjunctive use of surface and groundwater, and water quality management.

Hydrological Design Aids (HDA)

  • Under aegis of CWC and assisted by consultants, HDA software has been developed for surface water.
  • Software facilitates and expedites hydrological design of infrastructure (e.g. design flood analysis for gauged and un-gauged catchments), water resources availability assessments and reservoir sedimentation analysis, and would also, for first time, provide basis for uniform approaches among states and between states and central agencies.
  • HDA software has in-built facilities to integrate GIS and Excel type functionalities.
  • Part of data analysis and processing functionalities included in previously employed HYMOS system has also been incorporated into HDA.

Stream Flow Forecasting and Reservoir Operation Systems for Flood Management

  • For first time in India the stream flow forecasting and reservoir operation would be able to provide lead time for preparation of floods in days even for small catchments.
  • System makes use of seasonal and satellite based three days climate forecast (MWRF, RIMES Bangkok) and integrates real time hydrological information system, hydraulic and reservoir operation models.
  • System facilitates scheduling of reservoir releases and hydropower turbines, operation of spillway gates, issuance of flood warnings, and deployment of area evacuation measures.
  • Extensive use of these tools is being carried out in Bhakra-Beas Basin (Real Time Decision Support System—RTDSS) under aegis of BBMB and in Upper Krishna and Upper Bhima basins (Real Time Flood Stream flow Forecasting and Reservoir Operation System -RTSF & ROS) under aegis of Maharashtra Surface Water Dept.
  • System would help in minimizing flood impact in lower reach of river basins by minimizing sudden flow releases from reservoirs which has been one of the major reasons for floods downstream.
  • BBMB has been able to improve its management of Bhakra and Pong dams during 2013 monsoon season, to the extent that no flooding occurred, whereas in 1988 severe flooding occurred at end of monsoon season under same total inflow conditions in both years.

Groundwater Management – Aquifer Mapping

  • CGWB has commenced National Aquifer Mapping Program to prepare aquifer management plans and introduce participatory community groundwater management across nation.
  • Under Hydrology Project, 6 pilot projects were selected to test advance techniques and serve as guiding tool for National Aquifer Mapping Program.
  • Pilot projects included organization of existing database, hydro-geological modeling and conducting field tests, geophysical investigations and exploratory drilling.
  • Geophysical tests involved advanced technologies, wherein heliborne Transient Electro Magnetic (TEM) geophysical surveys was also carried for first time in India.

To know more about this project : Click Here