IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 24th September, 2015
Inland Water Transport(IWT) in India : An analysis
Water based transport is effective as generally speaking, operating costs of fuel are low and environmental pollution is lower than for corresponding volumes of movement by road, rail or air.
A major advantage is that the main infrastructure – the waterway – is often naturally available, which then has to be “trained”, maintained and upgraded.
Transport over waterways is especially effective when the source and/or destination are waterfront locations.
Even though IWT offers a great advantage , the development of this sector in India is not to the expected level.
Inland waterways in India makes up a paltry 3% of the total transport, compared with China’s 47%; in the European Union it stands at 44%.
Inland waterways in India :
There are six national inland waterways in India , with a navigable length of around 4,500km serving a total of 15 states and union territories.
Benefits of inland water transport:
A far more efficient mode of transportation than either road or rail, considering that just a single mid-sized barge has the dry-cargo capacity equivalent to 50 trucks or over 10 railcars.
Least transport cost for heavy and bulky cargos
Capability of transporting large amount of cargos in one time from one destination to another.
A fuel efficient and environment friendly mode of transportation.
No need of huge investment for the infrastructure like other modes of transport and less annual cost for maintenance of river channels.
The cheapest means of transporting raw materials and finished goods of various industries along the river banks.
Why inland waterway transport has failed to develop in India ?
India is estimated to have nearly 14,500 km of navigable inland waterways (including both national waterways and canal transport).
Most of the large rivers of the country enter the sea through shallow sand chocked delta channels. Thus navigation is hampered unless dredging is done. this has been a major problem in India’s inland water transport sector.
Volume of water in the rivers has lessened on account of construction of canals for irrigation purposes.
The peninsular rivers depend on rainfall for their volume of water. Thus during dry periods, these appear to be ribbons of water only.
The peninsular rivers flowing westwards meet the sea through estuaries. Their courses are short and often they make waterfalls and have steep gradient.
Besides, not many entrepreneurs are willing to invest in inland vessels, which have resulted in under utilisation of whatever infrastructure is created, thereby spelling trouble for the development of the sector.
IWT in India and other parts of the world: A comparison
In China, navigable inland waterways total more than 1,00,000 km and there are a large number of inland port facilities with berths for large vessels, with the inland waterways transportation making up to 47 per cent of the total transport available there.
In the European Union it is 44 per cent.
Inland waterways transportation in India, however, is a paltry 3 per cent.
The number of vessels carrying cargo that ply on inland waterway systems in China and the EU are 2,00,000 and 11,000, respectively, while there are less than 1,000 vessels estimated to be using the Indian inland waterway systems.
The crucial difference being that these countries have maintained and upgraded their river systems on core routes that can support large modern vessel fleets up to 40,000 tonnes of cargo on a single voyage, even as India is struggling to create depth in its river systems for vessels of 1,500 tonnage to go through.
Even in Bangladesh, about 35 per cent of the freight movement is by inland waterways and in Germany it is 20 percent.
Way Forward :
Should Government invest in IWT?
Given a sector turnover of about Rs 110 crores annually, the sector investment in 10th plan (Rs 5,665 crores,) does not appear to commercially or economically viable and this has been continued in the 11th and 12th plan as well.
Passenger movements are possible at low cost, but would need faster vessels and good interchange facilities than area currently available.
Existence of a driving cargo stream of sufficient volume is required to justify large investments.
Technical capability and vessel supply is available in the country and a unified and liberalized policy with regard to IWT and coastal shipping will benefit the sector.
In the above backdrop , the government has try to come up with National Waterway Bill 2015 , which talks about a comprehensive inland waterways policy framework .
Finally to answer the question, we say that Government should invest in a measured manner, given the considerations of a possible primary driving cargo and specific geographic potential. A tie up with the industrial location policy to drive demand would be essential.
Connecting the dots:
Enumerate the major national waterways in India .
Comment on the benefits of inland water transport with special reference national waterway 1.
Compare the development of inland water transport sector of India with other countries of the world.
Critically analyse as to why inland waterways have failed to become engine of growth in the Indian economy.
Europe’s Humanitarian crisis
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 3,50,000 migrants and refugees have tried to cross the Mediterranean sea into Europe. Almost 2,600 refugees have died in the Mediterranean Sea from January to August 2015 alone.
According toUNHCR data, as of early September 2015, 81% of Mediterranean Sea arrivals come from the world’s top-ten refugee-producing countries.
Who is a Refugee?
A refugee has been defined under the 1951 Refugee Convention of the UNHCR and its 1967 Protocol as any person who, “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside of the country of his nationality and is unable, or is owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself the protection of that country”.
Refugees enjoy a distinct and unique standard of protection under international law such as safety from deportation to the country where they face persecution; protection of basic human rights without racial or religious discrimination, or of national origin; access to fair and efficient asylum procedures; provision of administrative assistance.
With the evolution of international refugee law, this definition of convention refugees has been expanded to cover persons who have fled their countries due to armed conflicts, internal turmoil and situations involving gross and systematic violation of human rights.
Being a refugee implies an involuntary act, brought on by the instinct of self-preservation — from the threat of persecution, internal strife or armed conflict in the home country.
People who migrate due to Natural disasters, Poverty (even if that poverty threatens health) is a voluntary migration according to international law.
The camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey hosting people who have fled the Syrian civil war are refugee camps, and the people in them are considered as refugees.
But if someone leaves one of those camps to go to Europe before being individually processed is not technically a refugee.
Someone who’s trying to get refugee status is called an asylum seeker.
Who is a Migrant?
Persons who choose to leave their home state, in search of a better life, as opposed to escaping some form of persecution, internal strife or armed conflict.
Migrants do not enjoy any protection and/or privileges under international law. Countries are therefore at liberty to deal with migrants under their own immigration laws and processes.
Being a migrant implies a choice, exercised voluntarily, to seek a better life from that offered in the home country.
What is happening in Europe?
The majority of the men, women and children are reportedly from Syria, Eritrea and Afghanistan — countries plagued by civil war, gross human rights violations and religious insurgency are entering European countries in search of better life.
Much of the displaced populations are from Sub-Saharan Africa are migrants
From where people are coming to Europe:
Middle East (Syria, Yemen, Iraq)
Africa (Eritrea, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Gambia, Libya): Run by a repressive regime.
Western Balkans (Kosovo, Albania, Serbia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Macedona)
South Asia (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh): Due to deteriorating socio-economic conditions, civil conflicts.
Greece, Hungary, Croatia, Austria, Germany, Sweden, Finland
Southern and eastern Europe.
Why they chose Europe?
Europe is the closest wealthy, safe and accessible region from the Mideast and Africa.
Europe is economically prosperous, socially secure, have better immigration laws and accessible region from the Mideast and Africa.
Some European countries(Greece, Italy, Germany, Sweden etc.,) are known for welcoming asylum seekers and providing benefits to help them get started in their new homes.
Why people are migrating?
The irresponsible acts of western powers for achieving narrow political objectives have destabilised West Asia.
Libya was bombed by NATO in 2011 after getting sanctions through the United Nations Security Council Resolution in 1973, and is currently a battleground for different ethnic groups fighting to capture political power.
There is enough evidence to prove that on the pretext of supporting pro-democratic forces in Syria, western powers ended up helping the radical groups, providing necessary fodder for the birth of the deadly Islamic State.
Afghanistan, also one of the known battlefields of the Cold War, was deserted by the West after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Even after the death of Osama bin Laden, political instability continues in Afghanistan.
In Syria, Bashar al-Assad’s regime has targeted civilians ruthlessly; ISIS has subjected Syrians to murder, torture, crucifixion, sexual slavery and many other atrocities.
Why migration/refugee crisis is becoming humanitarian crisis?
Europe is facing a situation of a heavy influx of refugees, and is unwilling to welcome people into its territory.
European countries are increasing security patrolling around the Mediterranean Sea and in border areas, in order to check the infiltration of refugees.
Due to this increased surveillance, refugees are being pushed back, but sadly most of them cannot return to their unsafe and war-torn countries. This situation of being neither here nor there is leading to a big humanitarian crisis, demanding immediate international attention.
Reason for the increased refugee crisis:
For many years, EU kept out of sight and out of mind by paying Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s government to intercept and turn back migrants that were heading for Europe.
After the end of Gadhafi’s regime with the intervention of US, Libya collapsed into chaos. The journey through Libya made it easier for both refugees and economic migrants across Africa to use the country’s shores as a launching pad for the cross-Mediterranean journey to Europe.
Arab spring was perhaps the largest single spark of the ongoing global refugee crisis.
Why Europe is worried?
A large Muslim influx into smaller European countries like Slovakia or Hungary could cause a social earthquake.
All countries taking in migrants must look beyond the entryway to ongoing needs the newcomers will have: jobs, housing, schools, and help to integrate and overcome language and social barriers.
According to Human Rights Watch, the Greek reception centers, where arriving refugees are held, lack sufficient food and health care, and are severely unsanitary and chronically overcrowded that the conditions in them may amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment under international law.
It’s a big challenge to draw a line to differentiate who is refugee and who is a migrant. Many of them might be migrants pretending to be refugees.
Increased activities of the smugglers are a serious threat.
What is Schengen Area?
Area composing of 26 European Countries that have abolished passport and any other type of border control at their common borders (internal borders). It functions as a single country for international travel purpose with common visa policy.
Dublin Regulation:if a person who had filed for asylum in one EU country illegally crosses borders to another country, they shall be returned to the former
“Europe has a clear responsibility to help those seeking protection from war and persecution, To deny that responsibility is to threaten the very building blocks of the humanitarian system Europe worked so hard to build. European countries must shoulder their fair share in responding to the refugee crisis, at home and abroad.” –UNHRC
Is Europe facing Humanitarian crisis? What are the challenges before a nation to address the immigration crisis?
Would ending the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere stop the refugee crisis world is facing? How the international community must respond to achieve such targets?