Editorial Analysis for UPSC - Focus on the Revival of Inland Water Transport System

Focus on the Revival of Inland Water Transport System


  • A month after setting sail on the Ganga from Patna, the MV Lal Bahadur Shastri carrying 200 metric tonnes of food grains for the Food Corporation of India (FCI), docked at Guwahati’s Pandu port on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra on March 6.
  • The occasion is believed to have taken inland water transport, on two of India’s largest river systems, to the future.


  • The vessel had on February 5 started sailing from Patna on National Waterway-1 (NW1, river Ganga).
  • It passed through Bhagalpur, Manihari, Sahibganj, Farakka, Tribeni, Kolkata, Haldia, Hemnagar in India, Khulna, Narayanganj, Sirajganj and Chilmari in Bangladesh and again to India on National Waterway-2 (NW2, river Brahmaputra) through Dhubri and Jogighopa covering 2,350 km.
  • The docking of the vessel carrying 200 MT of food grains for the FCI has rekindled hope for the inland water transport system which the landlocked northeast depended on heavily before India’s independence in 1947.
  • Transportation of cargo service through waterways in Bangladesh is possible because of the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade signed between the two countries.


NW-1: Ganga-Bhagirathi-Hooghly River System (Haldia – Allahabad)
NW-2: Brahmaputra River (Dhubri – Sadiya)

  • Connecting these two waterways is really significant for the North Eastern states.
  • At the time of Independence Assam’s per capita income was the highest in the country owing to its tea, timber and oil industries to sea ports on Bay of Bengal via Brahmaputra and Barak Rivers.
  • This continued even after 1947 but stopped after the 1965 war with Pakistan because it was still east Pakistan at that point of time.
  • Later rail and road through the “Chicken’s Neck”, a narrow strip in West Bengal, became costlier alternatives.
Indo-Bangladesh Protocol: A boost to the movement of the cargo
  • This route will encourage the business communities to make use of this viable alternative.
  • India has invested 80% of ₹305.84 crore to improve the navigability of the two stretches of the IBP (Indo-Bangladesh Protocol) routes — Sirajganj-Daikhowa and Ashuganj-Zakiganj in Bangladesh.
  • The seven-year dredging project on these two stretches till 2026 is expected to yield seamless navigation to the north-eastern region.
  • IWAI officials said the distance between NW1 and NW2 will reduce by almost 1,000 km once the IBP routes are cleared for navigation.
  • The Government has also undertaken the Jal Marg Vikas project with an investment of ₹4,600-crore to augment the capacity of NW1 for sustainable movement of vessels weighing up to 2,000 tones.