The Uttar Pradesh government is set to leverage the Varanasi-Haldia inland waterway to boost exports, including those of farm commodities and manufacturing goods. The government is targeting increasing of merchandise exports from Rs 1.56 trillion to Rs 3 trillion in the next three years. The micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) sector contributes 75 per cent to the state’s export basket.
The plan is to harness easy and cheaper cargo movement from Varanasi through the Ganga to the seaport in West Bengal to export agricultural and horticultural produce, dairy products and MSME items. Growing number of expressway projects, coupled with 4-6-lane state and national highways, provides faster connectivity between destinations. The integration of the Varanasi-Haldia inland waterway with the road and expressway network will provide a seamless transportation channel for the state’s export cargo.
Although the Varanasi-Haldia inland waterway, operated by the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) is operational, the state aims to develop alternative intrastate inland waterways systems to cater to both passenger and cargo movements. “The state government will offer full support to the Centre to develop such waterways projects, which will go a long way in providing jobs to the youth and benefitting the farmers,” Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said.
He said the state was at the crux of the Eastern and Western Dedicated Freight Corridors and is fast developing as a multimodal logistics hub in India.
According to Union Ports, Shipping and Waterways Minister, Sarbananda Sonowal, the inland waterways cargo movement had jumped from 16 million tonnes (Mt) in 2016 to 109 Mt in 2021-22. Recently, he inaugurated seven community jetties and laid the foundation of eight others on the Ganga. In UP, jetties are being developed on a 250 km stretch between Varanasi and Ballia to facilitate small-scale industries, enhance the region’s cultural heritage and generate local employment opportunities.