India's tech manufacturing push to ride on the Ganges

Who needs the speed of road when you can go with the flow of mighty rivers?

The Indian government's stream of announcements can be fascinating to read: one day there's a plan like the Make In India scheme to turn the country into a high-tech manufacturing powerhouse, the next there's something about helping craft weavers in remote villages.

Today, the nation has announced something that blends the two in the form of a plan for greater use of the nation's waterways to transport the goods the Make In India program will (hopefully) soon send to market.

Minister for Shipping Shri Nitin Gadkari has told the nation's river transport sector to shake itself up and cut costs to make Make In India work.

India has plans to build 2,000 new water ports in the next five years. The new enthusiasm for water transport repudiates the post-colonial need for speed that emphasised rail and road construction. India's already building three multi-modal hubs at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Sahibganj in Jharkhand and Haldia in West Bengal, to get goods off the road and onto rivers.

India's building roads at a frantic pace, but most are toll roads and the nation is a long way short of possessing a national highway system. India's railways are famously prevalent, but also famously slow. River transport as a means of enabling a high-tech manufacturing push therefore makes a certain sense.

It's also hoped that opening India's interior waterways to heavier traffic will promote tourism. ®

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