National Waterway 1

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National Waterways (NW-1)
Bhavya - Vijai Marine 71 - General Cargo - IMO 9664603 - River Hooghly 2013-04-08 6054.JPG
A ship in National Waterway 1
Opened27 October 1986; 32 years ago (1986-10-27)
Length1,620 km (1,010 mi)
North endPrayagraj
South endHaldia(sagar)
No. of terminals18 Floating Terminal
2 Fixed RCC Jetty
OwnerInland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI)
OperatorCentral Inland Water Transport Corporation (CIWTC)

The National Waterway 1 or NW-1 or Ganga-Bhagirathi-Hooghly river system is located in India and runs from Haldia (Sagar) to Prayagraj across the Ganges, Bhagirathi and Hooghly river systems.[1] It is 1,620 km (1,010 mi) long,[2] making it the longest waterway in India.[3] It is of prime importance amongst all the national waterways considering its locational advantages. The NW-1 passes through West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and serves major cities and their industrial hinterlands like;

It was declared as a waterway in October 1986. It is navigable by mechanical boat up to Patna.


The topography of NW-1 falls within the flat terrain of the Indo-Gangetic plain. The elevation ranges from 1 to 321 m (3 to 1,053 ft) above mean sea level. The land is predominantly agricultural with some of the major cities of India lying in this region. For thousands of years, river Ganga and its tributaries and distributaries have been used for navigation and to transport people and local produce from these agricultural lands.

Land use within the influential area of NW-1[4]

  Cultivation (78.9%)
  Water Bodies (7.21%)
  Settlement (7.18%)
  Vegetation (3.59%)
  Dry River Beds (2.82%)
  Misc (0.3%)

On Aug 12th, 2016 Nitin Gadkari, the Union Minister for Shipping, Road Transport and Highways laid the foundation stone of the waterway terminal at Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.[5] He flagged off the trial run of two vessels which carried newly manufactured cars of Maruti Suzuki from Varanasi to Haldia, West Bengal.[6]

On 12th November, 2018 Honourable Prime Minister Shri. Narendra Modi inaugurated multi-modal terminal at Varanasi.

The NW-1 is being developed at an estimated cost of 4,200 crore (US$610 million), with financial assistance of US$375 million from the World Bank.[4] The 1,620 km (1,010 mi) route of NW-1 will be upgraded to maintain the following least available depth to allow for higher tonnage vessels of 1,500-2,000 tonnage to ply on the route.

Least available depth on NW-1[4]
Stretch Distance Least Available Depth
Prayagraj to Ghazipur 370 km (230 mi) 1.2 to 1.5 m (3.9 to 4.9 ft)
Ghazipur to Barh 290 km (180 mi) 2 m (6.6 ft)
Barh to Farakka 400 km (250 mi) 2.5 m (8.2 ft)
Farakka to Haldia 560 km (350 mi) 3 m (9.8 ft)

Major challenges[edit]

One of the major changes to the development of NW-1 is braiding and meandering characteristics of river Ganga and the large fluctuation of the water volume during the summer and monsoon months. The major challenges are:

  • Braiding and meandering characteristics of river
  • Large fluctuation of the water level — from 16.5 m (54 ft) at Prayagraj to 2 m (6.6 ft) at Farakka
  • Fluctuation of water velocity — from 4 m/s (14 km/h; 8.9 mph) during flood season to 0.2 m/s (0.72 km/h; 0.45 mph) during dry seasons
  • High silt load - Ganges carries around 1,600 million tonnes of silt annually
  • Shoal and island formation leading to splitting of main channel
  • Changes to navigation line due to the lateral migration of the river
  • Existence of power line pylons at various locations
  • Existence of pontoon bridges are a significant threat to navigation — about 7 pontoon bridges are present between Buxar and Prayagraj which are in use
  • Existence of critical bridges with horizontal clearance less than 70 m (230 ft) and vertical clearance less than 9 m (30 ft)


Sl No Name of Terminal Land area Size of berth Type of terminal
1 Haldia Multi-Model Terminal 10,319 m2 (111,070 sq ft) 200 m (660 ft) Floating Terminal
2 Botanical Garden Jetty 996 m2 (10,720 sq ft) 50 m (160 ft) Floating Terminal
3 BISN Jetty 11,606.64 m2 (124,932.8 sq ft) 100 m (330 ft) Floating Terminal
4 Shantipur 8,000 m2 (86,000 sq ft) 100 m (330 ft) Floating Terminal
5 Katwa Pontoon placed on water front 30 m (98 ft) Floating Terminal
6 Hazardwari Pontoon placed on water front 30 m (98 ft) Floating Terminal
7 Farakka Port 4,800 m2 (52,000 sq ft) 80 m (260 ft) Floating Terminal
8 G.R.Jetty - 2 14,606 m2 (157,220 sq ft) 216 m (709 ft) Fixed RCC Jetty
9 Rajmahal Pontoon placed on water front 35 m (115 ft) Floating Terminal
10 Sahebganj Multi-Model Port Pontoon placed on water front 35 m (115 ft) Floating Terminal
11 Bateshwarsthan Pontoon placed on water front 35 m (115 ft) Floating Terminal
12 Bhagalpur 1,000 m2 (11,000 sq ft) 35 m (115 ft) Floating Terminal
13 Munger 13,759 m2 (148,100 sq ft) 35 m (115 ft) Floating Terminal
14 Patna 13,112 m2 (141,140 sq ft) 46.6 m (153 ft) Fixed RCC Jetty
15 Barh - 27 m (89 ft) Floating Terminal
16 Balughat, Saran Pontoon placed on water front - Floating Terminal
17 Buxar Pontoon placed on water front - Floating Terminal
18 Ghazipur Pontoon placed on water front 35 m (115 ft) Floating Terminal
19 Varanasi Multi-Modal Terminal Pontoon placed on water front 35 m (115 ft) Floating Terminal
20 Semaria Pontoon placed on water front 35 m (115 ft) Floating Terminal
21 Prayagraj 87,590 m2 (942,800 sq ft) 35 m (115 ft) Floating Terminal


Even today the stretch of the river assigned as NW-1 is being used to transport cargo — mostly local produce and tourists. The Ministry of Shipping projects that the NW-1 will carry mostly bulk goods. Cargo like cement, iron ore, coal and coal combustion products, crude oil and petroleum products, rock phosphate, timber, stone chips, manganese ore and agricultural produce[4] Finished iron products from the number of steel plants present in this region will also be a major cargo in this route.

Traffic (cargo) forecast on NW-1[4]
Terminal Node Projected Cargo
(million tons per annum)
2015 2030 2045
Sahibganj Terminal 2.24 4.39 9.00
Varanasi Terminal 0.54 1.22 1.22
Haldia Terminal 4.07 4.07 4.07


The National Waterway 1 was landed in a controversy and protests after Nitin Gadkari, the Union Minister of Shipping in July, 2014 announced that the government will construct barrages every 100 km (62 mi) on river Ganga and will undertake dredging activities in identified stretch to provide a width of 45 m (148 ft) and a depth of 3 m (9.8 ft) to enable transport of passengers and goods between Varanasi and Hooghly on river Ganga in the first stage of its development.[7][8] The initial proposal is based on a study by Danish Hydrological Institute, which prepared reports on two stretches between Prayagraj and Varanasi and between Varanasi and Buxar.[9] The announcement was made after World Bank agreed to fund the initial US$50 million including technical support without any public consultation.[10] The move was criticized by river activists and professors of Banaras Hindu University.[11]

Involvement of World Bank[edit]

A representation was sent by several experts on the environmental and social impact of reviving the NW-1 to Government of India and World Bank in August, 2014. The representation was led by economist Dr. Bharat Jhunjhunwala along with a group of environmentalists and former bureaucrats. The representation was followed by meetings with World Bank.[12] The World Bank representatives were briefed about the ecological and social implications of the proposal. The adverse impact on river bank communities, the unmitigated displacement of people due to erosion at Farakka, a cost-benefit analysis for all stakeholders involved and whether taxation of the waterway will render it unviable. The World Bank clarified that they were unaware of the plan to construct 16 barrages and no funds had been disbursed till then. However [13][14] However, as per a letter dated 18 June 2014 forwarded by Shipping Minister Mr. Nitin Gadkari to the Finance Minister, Mr. Arun Jaitley, a proposal for financial assistance to four navigational barrages was made.

Opposition from Chief Minister of Bihar[edit]

The Government of Bihar led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar opposed the initiative to construct barrage on Ganga stating that construction of barrages will convert Ganga into big ponds. He stated that not a single drop of pure water from Ganga reaches Bihar due to similar barrages in upstream of the river.[15] Later, the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) has clarified that there are at present no plans to construct any new barrage on the 1,620 km (1,010 mi) stretch of the NW-1 on the Ganga.[16]

Dredging of Ganga[edit]

Environmentalist Debadityo Sinha claimed that World Bank has possibly scrapped the plan for construction of barrages for the National Waterway-1 after public opposition from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. However, significant maintenance dredging of the river Ganga will be undertaken by the government of India to make it navigable. The author also alleged that the Ministry of Environment, Government of India has made an amendment in law in January, 2016 in which dredging activities for maintenance is exempted from the requirement of Environmental Clearance.[17]

Threat to Gangetic Dolphin and aquatic fauna[edit]

Wildlife Biologist Nachicket Kelkar claimed that the noise and disturbance caused by intensive dredging activities is known to have deleterious impacts on aquatic biodiversity, especially the National Aquatic Animal of India, the Ganges River Dolphin which is basically founded in Bhagalpur region of Bihar. In particular, substrate-breeding fish species are negatively affected by dredging and might even become locally extinct following failed breeding. As a bulk of fisheries depends on benthic (bottom-dwelling) fishes in most of India’s larger rivers, this will mean important threat to the sustainable production of fish in these systems as well.[18]

Destruction of Self-Purification of Ganga[edit]

A study done by NEERI, a government of India funded research institution shows that the river Ganga is unique in its sediment content that is more radioactive compared to any other river and lake water sediments. These sediments release Copper and Chromium and have bactericidal properties that multiply coliphages reducing and ultimately eliminating coliforms from water.[19] River activist and economist Dr. Bharat Jhunjhunwala has claimed that the dredging activities undertaken will destroy the self-purification capacity unique to the Ganga.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Cabinet approves Jal Marg Vikas Project for enhanced navigation on the Haldia-Varanasi stretch of National Waterway-1".
  2. ^ "IWAI: National Waterways project to generate employment in state".
  3. ^ "Union Government launched National Waterway-4 project in Tamil Nadu", JagranJosh, 25 January 2014
  4. ^ a b c d e "Consolidated Environmental Impact Assessment Report for National Waterways-1" (pdf). report. Ministry of Shipping, Government of India. May 2016. Retrieved 12 August 2016.
  5. ^ "Nitin Gadkari inaugurates National Waterway-1, flags off trial run of two vessels". news. Pradesh 18. 12 August 2016. Retrieved 12 August 2016.
  6. ^ PTI (12 August 2016). "Government to spend Rs 50,000 crore on river front development: Nitin Gadkari". news. The Economic Times. Retrieved 12 August 2016.
  7. ^ "A Waterway from Varanasi to Kolkata?". The Times of India. 7 June 2014.
  8. ^ "Centre Plans to Develop Ganga as a Major Water Corridor, Tourism Destination". International Business Times. 9 July 2014.
  9. ^ "World Bank yet to decide on funding Clean Ganga". Deccan Herald. 4 November 2014.
  10. ^ "Lessons from Farakka as we plan more barrages on Ganga". South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People. 25 November 2014.
  11. ^ "Inland waterways project will 'kill' the Ganga, warn activists". The Hindu. 7 August 2014.
  12. ^ Representations to GoI and World Bank, Ganga Waterway Information Centre, 30 August 2014
  13. ^ World Bank holds meeting on Ganga waterways plan, Business Standard, 17 October 2014
  14. ^ World Bank yet to decide on funding Clean Ganga, Deccan Herald, 4 November 2014
  15. ^ CM opposes more barrages in Ganga, The Times of India, 12 April 2015
  16. ^ ‘No plan to construct barrage on the Ganga’, The Times of India, 21 April 2015
  17. ^ "Impacts of Ganga Waterways Plan on its ecology and the people". South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People. 11 August 2016.
  18. ^ "Digging Our Rivers' Graves?". South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People. 19 February 2016.
  19. ^ "Self-preservation and self-purification differentiate Ganga from all other rivers on the planet". Arise India Forum. 2 June 2012.

External links[edit]