South Asian nations have long underutilised the viability of inland waterways. At an event, Sub-Regional Dialogue on Inland Waterways, held in Kolkata, experts concurred that developing infrastructure to connect the waterways of India and Bangladesh would not only ease the movement of goods between these nations but optimise transport networks to expedite and economise freight movement to Nepal and Bhutan as well.
The project entitled, Expanding Tradable Benefits of Transboundary Water: Promoting Navigational Usage of Inland Waterways in Ganga and Brahmaputra Basins, was set up by Jaipur-based civil society organisation, CUTS International and is supported by The Asia Society. India’s Vice-Chairman of the Inland Water Transport Authority, Pravir Pandey, said that policies are changing to encourage the use of multi-modal transport in delivering cargo to Nepal. The process will be adopted in the shipment of a small percentage of goods at first and then extended to handle larger volumes of cargo.
The increased use of inland waterways is a green alternative to building heavy and permanent infrastructural networks like roads, highways, airports and ports. The waterways will allow each nation to meet their sustainability goals while creating jobs and alleviating poverty. They would also boost trans-national cooperation between BBIN, thereby strengthening regional trade.
Japan and India are already investing in mega-infrastructure projects to improve connectivity on the continent. Additionally, India is committed to pursue trans-continental connectivity through the INSTC. Dismantling cross-national barriers between neighbouring South-Asian nations will eventually fuse with such macro projects and serve to buttress a global, multi-modal transportation network.