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Virendra Singh Rawat / Lucknow

The Uttar Pradesh government is looking to harness inland waterways to boost trade, commerce and exports from the state.

The state will leverage the comparatively cheaper cargo movement from Varanasi onward to West Bengal on river Ganga waterway to promote the exports of agricultural, horticultural and dairy produce as well as micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) items.

Even as the Varanasi-Haldia inland waterway, operated by the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), is functional, the state is planning to develop other intrastate inland waterways to cater the 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 benefit the state farmers,” UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath had said last month.

He noted UP was in the course of both the Eastern and Western Freight Corridors, and the state is developing as a major multimodal logistics hub. The MSME sector contributes more than 75 percent of the UP export basket.

The number of expressway projects apart from 4-6 lane state and national highways offers seamless connectivity between faraway destinations, both inside and outside the state.

The integration of the Varanasi-Haldia inland waterway with the existing and prospective road and expressway network will provide a faster transportation channel for exports cargo.

In fact, the Varanasi inland port has so far clocked exports of One District One Product (ODOP) items worth Rs 3,700 crore. The cost of operation of inland waterways is lower compared to the train and road transport.

According to union ports, shipping and waterways minister Sarbananda Sonowal, the inland waterways cargo movement had risen from 16 million tonnes (MT) in 2016 to 109 MT in 2021-22.

Recently, Sonowal had inaugurated seven jetties and laid the foundation of eight others on river Ganga. Jetties are inland waterway platforms for passenger and freight movement. In UP, jetties are being developed on a 250 km stretch between Varanasi and Ballia.

The jetties are expected to catalyse small-scale industries, enhance the region’s cultural heritage and generate local employment opportunities.

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The Yogi government is eyeing merchandise exports to jump from the current level of Rs 1.56 trillion to Rs 3 trillion in the next three years.

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