Trade Insight Vol. 19, No. 1-2, 2023
By Suvayan Neogi and Veena Vidyadharan
Although inland waterways are considered a cheaper and environment-friendly option, climate-induced challenges can afflict this mode of transport, reduce its reliability and thereby add to the costs of operation and maintenance
Historically, waterways used to play a signifi cant role in transportation in the Indian subcontinent. The wide network of rivers facilitated cargo movement between Kolkata port and East Bengal and northeast India. The movement got stalled after the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965.
The trade routes through waterways were revived in 1972 soon after the independence of Bangladesh from Pakistan by signing the Protocol on Inland Water Trade and Transit (PIWTT) under Article VIII of the Trade Agreement between India and Bangladesh. Even then, the priorities of the subsequent governments in both countries have been to develop road and railway connectivity, not waterways.
A boost to this sector happened in 2015 when both countries decided to revive the agreement with a provision for auto-renewal every five years. Since then, several developments occurred in India, including the promulgation of the National Waterways Act (2016) that designated 111 Indian rivers, river stretches, creeks, and estuaries as National Waterways (NW)1. The NW-1 stretches between Allahabad and Haldia in the Ganges, Bhagirathi and Hooghly river system for about 1620 km. The NW-2 extends for 891 km from Sadiya to Dhubri in Assam. The NW-1 and NW-2 are also part of the India-Bangladesh Protocol Route-1, which connects Kolkata to Silghat in Assam via Bangladesh.