While the main mandate of Indian Waterways Authority of India is to develop inland waterways for purpose of cargo transportation, it also makes way for cruise tourism and other water activities. At a recent convention in Kerala, N Unni, chief engineer, Inland Waterways Authority of India, informed that the authority is continuously maintaining the waterways for easy movement, be it for cargo or tourists. Speaking about the backwaters of Kerala, Unni stated, “There is about 465 km of waterways identified in Kerala, majority of which can be used for water movement. Some are just narrow; not suitable for transportation. We as the waterway authority try our best to improve depths, provide navigational points, make it safer for travel which is further used for tourist movement.”
He further mentioned, “Already more than 1000 houseboats are using the backwaters to attract tourists. It is now upto the private players to add more facilities and for the government to develop better port facilities to make it more convenient. Alleppey, Kollam and Cochin can be the three major port hubs in Kerala.”
These waterways have certain restrictions where the big boats cannot go and the waterways authority works to remove these restrictions. It demolishes old bridges and reconstructs them, improves depth, and builds the overall channel for safe transport of vehicles. Now it’s up to the private sector to come in and use it for commercial purpose be it excursions or houseboat stays.
Speaking about other areas of work, he mentioned, “We also support cruise tourism in a big way on Ganga and Brahmaputra. There are already cruise boats on these rivers, which are doing good business. There we facilitate them in such a way that wherever they have doubts regarding their path, we provide them with navigational support, we also have the DGPS system which is linked through a satellite which helps in navigation.”
He urged the private players to identify new places where ports are required, so the government can do necessary development in the area.