Kochi, Nov 19 (UNI) The 205 km long National Waterway III (NWIII) will be declared open tomorrow, facilitating an environment-friendly and fuel-efficient way of transportation in Kerala.
State Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan will inaugurate the waterway, developed by the Inland Waterway Authority of India (IWAI), at a function here.
State Water Resources Minister N K Premachandran, Revenue Minister K P Rajendran, Industries Minister Elamaram Kareem and Fisheries Minister S Sharma will also participate in the function.
Talking to UNI about the importance of the project, Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation Chairman Rear Admiral (Retd.) B R Menon said the waterway would provide an environment-friendly, fuel-efficient, cheap and safe mode of transporation.
''A unit of one horsepower can carry 50 kg load through the road, 500 kg through rail and 5,000 kg through the waterway,'' be observed.
Stating that Kerala was ideally suited to use its waterways for transportation, Adm. Menon said by neglecting its waterways, Kerala had neglected its biggest natural asset.
Even the then President APJ Abdul Kalam had during a visit to Kerala stressed the need for the state to develop ''smart waterways'' for economic development.
As per official figures, the inland waterways in Kerala stretch to a length of 1,687 km, corresponding to 11.6 percent of a total of 14,544 km in the country.
However, most of the waterways are unserviceable for want of proper maintenance. Side erosion and silting have reduced the effective depths, resulting in reduced traffic.
National Waterway III, from Kollam in south to Kottupuram in north, took nearly 14 years to complete.
Launched in 1993, NW III was plagued by a plethora of issues ranging from removal of fishermen's nets, dredging of the canal, strengthening of banks, construction of new terminals and payment of compensation and rehabilitation of people evicted from the banks.
The National Transportation Planning and Research Centre (NATPAC) has already recommended the extension of the Kollam-Kottupuram NW III to Kovalam in the south and Kasaragod in the north, thus giving the state a navigable waterway along its entire length.
Moving freight transportation to waterways would help decongest the road and rail systems and also provide employment. As per studies, the inland water transport system can provide employment to nearly 200,000 people in the state, Adm. Menon said.