Inland Waterways in India

Inland Waterways in India
Posted on 23-08-2023

Unlocking India's Inland Waterways: Potential, Progress, and Regulation


The IWT Wing holds the responsibility for overseeing the progress, management, and execution of capacity building and institutional strengthening efforts within the National Waterways (NWs). Led by a Senior Economic Advisor, the wing receives support from a Director (IWT), two Under Secretaries, and the IWT Section.

India boasts an extensive network of inland waterways encompassing rivers, canals, backwaters, and creeks. However, freight transportation through these waterways remains significantly underutilized compared to more developed nations. Presently, India heavily relies on road and rail for hinterland connectivity, with domestic waterways, both coastal and inland, playing a limited role. Waterways offer an environmentally friendly and cost-effective approach to transporting freight. In India, the potential of Inland Water Transport (IWT) to alleviate strain on railways and congested roads is evident. Beyond cargo movement, the IWT sector also facilitates activities like vehicle transportation through the Roll-on-Roll-off (Ro-Ro) ferry system and contributes to tourism.

The National Waterways Act of 2016 designates 111 inland waterways as 'National Waterways' (NWs) to promote shipping and navigation. These waterways span a total length of 20,275 km, traversing 24 states across the nation.

Established on October 27, 1986, under the Inland Waterways Authority of India Act of 1985, the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) functions as an autonomous entity. The IWAI's primary role involves the development, maintenance, and regulation of waterways designated as NWs under the National Waterways Act of 2016. The IWAI's headquarters are located in Noida, Uttar Pradesh. The policy directives and instructions set forth by the IWT Wing are implemented by the IWAI.

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