The move will lead to augmentation of water infrastructure in the country
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shown keen interest in developing 1,100 islands and 300 lighthouses across the nation to tap their huge tourism potential in a bid to bolster water infrastructure, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari said on Tuesday.
Besides, the government will seek Parliament nod on a Bill for converting 101 rivers into waterways, and Rs 50,000 crore (Rs 500 billion) will be spent on developing these in the next 2-3 years, he said.
"The prime minister has asked us to include the proposal to develop 300 lighthouses and 1,100 islands in a Cabinet note we sent him in connection with developing waterways," Gadkari said while addressing a national conference on Inland Waterways organised by FICCI in New Delhi.
He said the move, in turn, will lead to augmentation of water infrastructure in the country, which is set for an overhaul in coming years.
A pact between India and Bangladesh is also likely on transportation of goods through waterways between both nations during the PM's visit to the country, he said.
"The government is planning to develop these waterways through the public-private partnership (PPP) mode, which is picking up after a slump. Bidders have shown enthusiastic response in five road projects, including the one in which Larsen & Toubro has bid 20 per cent below the cost," he said.
Of the 101 rivers to be converted into waterways, detailed project reports (DPRs) for 16 are likely to be completed this month while those for another 40 will be ready by December 2015, the minister said.
Of the existing five waterways, only three could be developed so far while efforts are on to develop the other two, he said, adding that government is setting up four multimodal hubs at Varanasi, Haldia, Sahebganj and Kolkata of the 1,620-km Varanasi to Haldia stretch, and the land acquisition for the same is at advanced stage.
Shipbuilding yards and repair hubs in Assam, Andaman & Nicobar and Kandla in Gujarat are also on the anvil.
Gadkari said that once the domestic centres are operational with the help of the Cochin Shipyard, this could result in huge savings for repair of ships transported to faraway places in Malaysia, Singapore and China.
Shipbuilding will give impetus to the government's 'Make-in-India' and 'Made-in-India' drive, he said, adding that the Cochin Shipyard has undertaken a pilot project to manufacture a vehicle on the pattern of hovercraft with barely Rs 5 crore (Rs 50 million) expenditure in comparison to its usual cost of Rs 40-50 crore (Rs 400-500 million).
The government, the minister said, has plans to make Yamuna navigable, along with other stretches, besides promoting cruise shipping across the nation.
The Centre is ready to form joint ventures with states for water transport and will offer 24 per cent equity to them, Gadkari said, adding that both shipping and road sectors would contribute 2 per cent to GDP, besides creating 25 lakh (2.5 million) jobs.
Earlier, shipping secretary Rajive Kumar underscored the importance of 'out-of-the-box' planning required to develop the sector which has a huge potential.
Putting things in perspective, Inland Waterways Authority of India chairman Amitabh Verma said the sector witnessed barely Rs 1,117 crore (Rs 11.17 billion) investment in 1986-2010 whereas China saw $15 billion investment in just five years.