Budget2020: The silence surrounding Bharatmala, CEZ waterways and coastal shipping?
RN Bhaskar — 3 Feb 2020
Inland Waterways received a boost in the last five years. The JalVikasMargon National Waterway‐1 will be completed. Further, the 890 Km Dhubri‐Sadiya connectivity will be done by 2022.
Developing waterways has its impact on the eco‐system on both the banks of the river. Our Prime Minister has conceptualised “Arth Ganga”.
Plans are afoot to energise economic activity along river banks.
Nirmala Sitharaman in her Budget 2020 speech
The government has come up with what seems to be a new idea. But weren’t some of these ideas part of the Bharatmala programme announced during the tenure of Modi I? But what happened to the plan to introduce Coastal Economic Zones (CEZ) – which could be tremendous wealth generators, and employment opportunity creators (http://www.moneycontrol.com/news/business/economy/why-its-necessary-to-develop-business-and-transport-along-indias-coastline-2362359.html). And whatever happened to the other waterways that were part of this plan (see chart) ?
Budget 2020 talks about only one of the five waterways planned. Why?
Waterways are important because they are the cheapest form of transport. On a rule of thumb basis, if cargo costs Re1 per tonne/km on high seas, it would cost Rs.3-4 on waterways and through coastal transport. Railways would push up the costs to Rs.6-8 while road transport would further push up costs to Rs.10-12. Clearly, more than roadways, the focus should have been on waterways.
Even the talk about using the waterways in the North East and developing linkages through Chittagong and Sabroom have been forgotten (https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/business/economy/agartala-on-its-way-to-becoming-a-major-hub-for-trade-and-commerce-3556891.html). Has the North East suddenly lost its relevance?
The absence of any mention about these projects is a bit perplexing.