Thermal Power Plant Coal Supply to Improve with Expansion of Inland Water Transport Mode 12th Plan Outlay

By Dr. H. R. Keshavamurthy (Director (M&C), Press Information Bureau, Kolkata), December 10, 2013 (washington Bangla Radio): Transportation of cargo through waterways has been in vogue in many parts of India since ancient times. Regular movement of powered vessels carrying daily needs to various destinations through rivers across the country, especially through River Ganga and River Brahmaputra was very prominent. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Inland Water Transport is considered to be the back bone of transport link between mainland of India and NE Region and has been a life line for supply of essential commodities between Kolkata and Allahabad on Ganga and between Kolkata and Guwahati through Ganga- Brahmaputra routes since those days.

Inland Water Transport is widely recognized as a cost effective, fuel efficient, and environment friendly mode of transport and is also the most suitable mode for transportation of bulk cargo, Over Dimensional Cargo and hazardous goods. As per National Transport Policy Committee Report (1980), the approximate length of navigable waterways in the country was 14,500 km. Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) was formed in October 1986 for development and regulation of inland waterways.

Primary function of IWAI is development of National Waterways for shipping & navigation by creating Inland Water Transport (IWT) infrastructure, to make them a commercially viable mode of transport. National Waterways are declared by the Parliament through specific Acts and come under the purview of Union Government/IWAI. Other waterways remain in the purview of respective State Governments. On some stretches of waterways in Goa and Mumbai (which are tidal waterways) substantial IWT cargo movement takes place.

There are five National waterways (NW) as of now, namely:

  • Ganga (Allahabad-Haldia-1620 km)-NW-1, declared in 1982
  • Brahmaputra (Dhubri – Sadiya -891 Km) – NW-2 declared in 1988
  • West Coast Canal (Kottapuram – Kollam) along with Udyogmandal and Champakara Canals– (205 km) – NW-3 declared in 1993
  • Kakinada-Puducherry canals along with Godavari and Krishna rivers (1078km) -NW-4 declared in 2008
  • East Coast Canal integrated with Brahmani river and Mahanadi delta (588 km) – NW-5 declared in 2008

Declaration of one more waterway i.e. Lakhipur- Bhanga stretch (121 km) of Barak river in Assam, as NW-6 is under consideration of the Government.  IWT infrastructure is being developed on first three National Waterways (NW-1, 2 & 3). For National Waterways- 4 & 5 which were declared in November 2008, preparation of Detailed Project Reports has been completed.

IWT & Kolkata

Kolkata has always been a very important inland water transport hub for eastern and north-eastern India.  Even during pre-independence era, a proper berthing jetty was constructed by the colonial rulers here and was named as Garden Reach Jetties. These jetties however outlived their life and became defunct in 1980s.The Haldia- Allahabad stretch of River Ganga – Bhagirathi- Hooghly system was declared as National Waterway – 1 in 1986 and since then  Inland Waterways Authority of India has been developing and maintaining IWT infrastructural facilities including loading / unloading facilities at various locations on this National Waterway which passes through the States of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.  Two major ports viz. Kolkata Port and Haldia Port are connected with the waterway.

Kolkata is also an important Inland Water Transport (IWT) hub for transportation of various cargo by IWT mode, not only for these States on the Ganga but also for the entire North Eastern Region.  National Waterway-1 is linked to the North Eastern Region through Indo-Bangladesh Protocol Route via Bangladesh connecting the National Waterway – 2(Brahmaputra) and the proposed National Waterway – 6, the river Barak. As of now, this Protocol is valid up to 31st March, 2014. In the year 2004, IWAI established a floating terminal in BISN area of Kolkata from where regular export of fly-ash is made to Bangladesh through IWT mode every year.  In addition to fly-ash, Over Dimensional Cargo (ODC), foodgrains, fertilizers, bitumen etc. are identified cargo for regular movement to various destinations along the National Waterway– 1, to Bangladesh and North East. There is also potential for movement of containers on NW-1. A recent study conducted by M/s RITES has projected IWT traffic of 1.5 million tonnes by 2018-19 and 3 million tonnes by 2031-32 at Kolkata.

Considering the volume of Cargo and the importance of Kolkata as a transport hub, IWAI has taken on long term lease 4.5 hectares of land from Kolkata Port Trust in this area covering BISN, GR Jetty-1 and GR Jetty-2 for development of a multi-modal modern IWT terminal. This area has total river frontage of about 470 m which is a great asset from navigation point of view. As a part of this IWT complex, IWAI has constructed a permanent RCC jetty at GR jetty-2 at a cost of Rs. 38.47 crore through the Central Public Works Department.  The jetty has been designed for mechanical handling of cargo and the terminal has road connectivity with State Highway and a water front of 210 meters.

Cargo Movement

Cargo movement by IWT mode has generally been showing increasing trend over the years with increase of 54% between 2004-5 and 2011-12. The overall cargo movement through IWT went up from 45.6 million tons in 2004-05 to 70.30 million tons in 2011-12, but declined to   34.60 million ton in the year 2012-13 due to shutting down of iron ore mining activity in Goa by the order of Supreme Court of India.

Budgetary Outlay

Plan outlay for IWT sector has been increasing since 11th plan. In 12th Plan the outlay for IWT sector is expected to be Rs. 1500 crore which is about 2.4 times that of 11th Plan outlay of Rs. 560 crore. There is a Central Plan Scheme providing 100 % grant to the States for development of IWT infrastructure on any waterway of the North East. For other States, Centrally Sponsored Scheme has been discontinued by the Planning Commission from 1st April, 2007. However Planning Commission has suggested that all the States can request for funds in their Annual Plans for IWT development.

Under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme, 35 projects of 15 States (Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland, Orissa, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal) costing Rs 107 cr were sanctioned by the Central Govt during 10th Plan.

NTPC Coal Movement Project

NTPC’s power plants at Farakka and Kahalgaon require imported coal amounting to more than 5 million tonnes per annum (MMTPA) which is brought through Paradip and Haldia ports.  But due to capacity constraints of railways, these power plants regularly face shortage of coal.  Further, due to low depth available at Haldia port, bigger ocean going vessels cannot come there due to which, 70% of imported coal is received at Paradip port and from there it is transported by railways.  Both these power plants are located along Ganga river (NW-1) quite close to the river bank.

IWAI had been working with NTPC on the project of transportation of imported coal by IWT mode from Haldia to Farakka and Kahalgaon. In July 2010, NTPC gave written commitment of transportation of 3 MMTPA of imported coal from Haldia to Farakka by IWT mode for a period of seven years.  Thereafter IWAI and NTPC developed a project envisaging total investment from private sector.  After open competitive bidding M/s Jindal ITF Ltd. were selected as operator and the project has been commissioned recently. NTPC has a dedicated railway line between Farakka and Kahalgaon power plants.  Hence it is likely that they may transport further 3 MMTPA of imported coal for Kahalgaon power plant to Farakka by IWT mode under the same project.

Since there are several existing thermal power plants along Ganga and many more are going to come up, success of this pioneering project may pave way for many more projects for transportation of coal on NW-1 and possibly on other National Waterways as well and may also become a catalyst in reviving the inland water transport mode in the eastern and north-eastern parts of the country. IWAI has also identified a few more cargo specific projects with private sector investment for transportation of 3 MMTPA coal for NTPC’s power plant at Barhin Bihar; Transportation of 0.5 MMTPA  coal for NTPC’s power plant at Bongaigaon in Assam; Transportation of food grains of FCI by IWT mode in Kolkata-Tripura (through Ashuganj); and  within NW-2 (north banks);  Andhra Pradesh to Tripura and transportation of fertilizers on NW-1.

Kaladan Multimodal Transport Project

This project was conceptualized by the Ministry of External Affairs to provide alternative connectivity of Mizoram with Haldia/Kolkata ports through Kaladan river in Myanmar.  The project envisages Coastal Shipping/ Maritime Shipping from Haldia to Sittwe, IWT; From Sittwe to Paletwa (in Myanmar) and thereafter road from Paletwa to Mizoram. It is piloted and funded by the MEA at a cost Rs 342 crore. Construction of Sittwe port is in progress, about 50% work has been done upto March 2013, and the work is likely to be completed by June, 2014.

Encouraged by the successful completion of project of transportation of imported coal by IWT mode from Haldia to Farakka, IWAI and NTPC have developed another similar project for transportation of 3 million tonnes per year of imported coal from Haldia to Barh power plant of NTPC which is also located on Ganga river, about 60 km downstream of Patna.  This will encourage private investments in this booming sector where government has substantially increased budget support.