The World Bank has decided to lend $375m to India to develop the first modern inland water transport fairway on the Ganga river between Varanasi and the seaport of Haldia.
The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) intends to develop the 1,360km waterway project, called National Waterway 1 (NW1) or Jal Marg Vikas, as an efficient logistics artery for northern India, while adopting least intrusive methods of making the river navigable.
The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) loan has a seven-year grace period and a maturity of 17 years.
The project is expected to save more than 150,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent in greenhouse gas emissions annually by moving cargo away from road and rail networks.
NW1 will pass through one of the most densely populated areas in India. Even though this region generates 370 million tonnes of freight annually, only five million tonnes currently travels by water.
Once operational, NW1 will become part of the larger multi-modal transport network being planned along the Ganga and link with the Eastern Dedicated Rail Freight Corridor and the area’s existing network of highways.
This will allow manufacturers and agricultural producers in the region to use different modes of transport to reach markets in India and abroad.
The project will finance the construction of six multi-modal terminals, 10 roll-on roll-off (RORO) jetties, ship-repair facilities and passenger jetties along the river.
The Farakka lock will be modernised and a new lock will be added to enable smoother passage of boats.
As part of the project, IWAI will acquire a latest River Information System and navigation aids to make travel on the river safer and more reliable.
To ensure the environmental sustainability of the river, there will be no abstraction or storage of water under the project and the navigation services will not affect the flow of the river.
Moreover, the IWAI has decided to make use of the currently available natural depths of the river – ranging from three metres in the lower stretches to two metres further upstream – for the navigation channel, minimising the need for dredging.
The 1,360km waterway will bring thousands of jobs in cargo logistics and transportation to one of the most populous regions in the country.