The government approved a proposal for central legislation to declare 106 additional inland waterways as national waterways, said the media reports.
"The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given its approval to carry out official amendments in the National Waterways Bill, 2015," an official statement said.
The amendments are based on the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture and comments of states.
It provides for enacting a central legislation to declare 106 additional inland waterways as the national waterways.
"After the inclusion of 106 additional inlands waterways to the existing five national waterways, the total number of national waterways goes up to 111," the statement said.
The changes effected in the original list of 101 waterways, which was introduced with the National Waterways Bill 2015 on May 5 this year, include omission of 10 waterways of Kerala, merger of 17 with the existing waterways and addition of 18.
"In order to carry out these changes, an official amendment to the National Waterways Bill, 2015 will have to be moved in the Lok Sabha in the current session of Parliament," the statement said.
Declaration of additional 106 waterways as national waterways will not have any immediate financial implications, the statement said, adding financial approval of the competent authority for each waterway will, however, be taken based on the outcome of the techno-economic feasibility studies which are being undertaken by the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI).
"The declaration of these national waterways would enable IWAI to develop feasible stretches for shipping and navigation. The right over the use of water, river bed and the appurtenant land will remain with the state government," the statement said.
In addition, other benefits to states include fewer accidents, less congestion on roads, cheaper mode of ferrying passengers, reduced logistics costs in cargo movement and development of adjoining areas.
Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari has said the government is hopeful of Parliament's nod on the bill in the current session.
"We are hopeful that we will get Parliament approval to convert rivers across the country into waterways in this session only. This will usher in unexpected economic growth for the country," Gadkari has said.
The expeditious declaration of national waterways and its subsequent development will spur industrial growth and tourism potential of the hinterland along the waterway, the statement said. This will also provide an additional, cheaper and environment friendly mode of transportation throughout the country, it added.
Inland water transport is considered as the most cost-effective and economical as far as fuel efficiency is concerned.
Making a strong case, the government said one horse power can carry 4,000 kg load in water whereas it can carry 150 kg and 500 kg by road and rail, respectively. Further, in a study as highlighted by the World Bank, 1 litre of fuel can move 105 tonne-km by inland water transport whereas the same amount of fuel can move only 85 tonne-km by rail and 24 tonne-km by road.
Studies have shown that emission from container vessels ranges from 32-36 gm of CO2 (gCO2) per km while those of road transport vehicles (heavy duty vehicles) range from 51-91 gCO2 per km, it added.
The Bill proposes conversion of 15 rivers in West Bengal, 14 each in Assam and Maharashtra, 11 in Karnataka, 12 in Uttar Pradesh, 9 in Tamil Nadu and 6 each in Bihar and Goa and 5 each in Gujarat, Meghalaya, Odisha and Telangana, among others.
The proposal also includes plan to convert the Yamuna in Delhi and Haryana into a waterway.