NEW DELHI, Jan 6 - A river information system, similar to air traffic control, will now keep vigil on waterway traffic just the way it is done in Europe, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said today.
�We are going to tap waterways in a much bigger way... The new system, first of its kind in the country, will facilitate safe and accurate navigation on waterways and in turn boost imports and exports,� Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Minister Gadkari said.
Inaugurating the River Information System (RIS) for the 145-km stretch of the National Waterways 1 (Phase 1 � Haldia to Farakka) on the Ganga here, the Minister said it will monitor and track the movement of ships, and its role for waterways will be like an ATC.
The Minister said the Phase-II of the system from Farakka to Patna and Phase-III from Patna to Varanasi will also be implemented on a priority basis as efforts are on to develop the Ganga as a waterway.
�We have started Rs 4,200-crore projects on the Varanasi-Haldia stretch of the Ganga, which will maintain a draft of 3 metres to enable navigation of bigger ships,� he said.
He likened the installation of an efficient and effective RIS on the Sagar-Farakka stretch to the existing facilities in countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, China and the US.
As part of this project, vessels are being monitored by installing seven remote (base station sites) at Haldia, Garden Reach (GR) Jetty, Tribeni, Swaroopganj, Kumarpur, Ballia and Farakka at a cost of Rs 26.23 crore.
There will be two control centres � at Farakka and GR Jetty � which will monitor vessels through an Automatic Identification System (AIS) and communicate via VHF.
As many as 30 vessels are equipped with inland AIS system, short range radar and VHF. The AIS data and voice communication of the vessel will be scrutinised and recorded at control stations and can be retrieved, whenever needed.
The Minister said he is hopeful of securing Parliament nod on the Bill to convert 111 rivers across the country into National Waterways in the next session as Lok Sabha has already passed it in the last session.
The Government plans to extend this pilot project to all the waterways. �Once they become operational, it is bound to boost Indian economy,� he said, adding that India has barely 3.5 per cent of its total transport through waterways as against 49 per cent in China, 44 per cent in Korea and Japan and 40 per cent in Europe.
Admitting developing waterways of the country as a challenge, he said RIS is �a major step� in realising the dream of waterways.
The RIS is a combination of modern tracking equipment-related hardware and software designed to optimise traffic and transport processes in inland navigation.
The system improves swift electronic data transfer between mobile vessels and shore (base stations) through advance and real-time exchange of information. The RIS aims to streamline the exchange of information between waterway operators and users.
The Minister hoped that the system will facilitate enhancement of inland navigation safety in ports and rivers, better use of the inland waterways and environment protection.
On pollution, Gadkari pointed to the promotion of use of LNG. �We are sensitive to pollution,� he said and added that a group of secretaries formed at the instance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is studying the matter.
RIS is being implemented under the overall responsibility of the Inland Waterway Authority of India, a statutory body administered by the Ministry of Shipping. It is also designed to prevent ship-to-ship and ship-bridge collisions. � PTI