In India, the great — yet unexplored — potential of inland water transportation

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Most of us attendees were novices in the area of inland water transportation in India and were curious to know what Arnab Bandyopadhay, Senior Transport Engineer at the World Bank’s India country office would say.

Indian waterways
Indian waterways. Photo credit: World Bank

The World Bank’s transport program in India is its largest such program in a single country, and this was the first session of the World Bank-IIM Discussion series at IIM Calcutta this year.
Mr. Bandyopadhay started off by elucidating the advantages of Inland Water Transport (IWT), which is globally recognized as one of the most energy-efficient and environment-friendly modes of transportation.

 Comparison between IWT, Rail and Road

He compared the condition of India’s inland waterways with rail and road transportation in India and also with inland waterways in countries like USA, China and Bangladesh, giving us an insight into the opportunities that are waiting to be explored. He also discussed the financing, funding and technological constraints to the development of inland waterways in India, giving examples of the port of Liverpool in Britain and the Yangtze River in China.
The discussion of the plan to develop National Waterway 1 (NW1) and NW5 to move 50 MMTPA of coal was especially insightful for all of us since it made us realize the real potential of IWT. He spoke eloquently and lucidly, which told us he must have been an engineer once.
The big question we all had was why India had not invested earlier in IWT and reaped the benefits by now when it could have been done even 40 years back.
The way he discussed the subject persuaded the students to research further into these unexplored areas of management and come up with innovative thinking - he was even happy to facilitate such research!
The session ended with questions from the students on sustainability, security measures, government policies and other issues related to inland waterways. The development of the Haldia port was also discussed in great detail.


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