ISLAMABAD - Planning Commission and Pak American Fertilizers Limited on Monday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for Inland Waterways Transport aiming to reduce the transportation cost. MOU was signed by Sardar Aseff Ahmed Ali, Deputy Chairman Planning Commission, and Engineer Zahid Aziz, head of Engineering (Projects) Pak American Fertilizers Ltd. The MOU is being signed with Agritech Limited to facilitate them to carry out the study with the support of Pakistan Navy. Addressing a press conference after signing ceremony Sardar Aseff said, This is the cheaper way of transportation comparing to the roads and railways and economic activities of the country would boost. He said there is 30,000 kilometres of rivers and perennial canal network in the country, which offers opportunity of establishing economical water transport system in the country. Establishment of Inland water transport will reduce fuel consumption to about 8 to 10 times and 3 to 4 times less than the rail transport, he added. He further said Planning Commission is launching a full-scale Inland Water Transport Project as a policy of this government is based on link-canals in Punjab and Sindh and on many sections of Indus River. Summary of draft bill has been sent to Prime Minister Secretariat through Ministry of Water and Power after the approval, the President of Pakistan will be requested to issue an ordinance to make Pakistan Inland Waterways Transport Authority, he said. It will be an autonomous authority with administrative & financial powers under the Ministry of Water & Power, he said and added that Planning Commission will steer the whole process. The Inland Water Transport project is in line with the Governments policy of public-private partnership. This is also in line with the objectives of National Trade Corridor Improvement Programme to reduce the cost of transportation, he informed. Planning Commission has allocated Rs 1.4billion for the inland water transport system in PSDP of 2009-10 budget. Engineer Zahid Aziz, head of Engineering (Projects) Pak American Fertilizers Ltd said there is need to reduce the expenditure of transportation, which are on the higher side. He said the farmers would also get benefit from it by transporting fertilizers, as this would reduce the transportation cost. He said without help of Navy we could not do anything. Chairman Task Force on Inland Waterways Transport in his briefing said that there were 30,000 kilometres of navigable channels and zero cargo and only 2 dozens studies conducted in 40 years which needed to be enhanced. Talking about the looming crises, he said 'our oil import bill is $ 9 billion and today there is 200-billion ton-km cargo movement that would go to 1400-billion ton-km cargo in next nine years. If nothing were done, there would be increase in imported fuel bill, number of trucks, and road network expansion and maintenance he added. He said average distance 1 ton of freight moved by one litre of fuel, by road it would be 20 km, by rail 70 km and by Inland Waterways Transport it would be 180 km which clearly suggest the difference. He said Inland Water Transport is no longer an optional alternative but it is national imperative. This would reduce the cost of doing business and increase export as well employment opportunities in the country, he added. Only Pakistan Navy has the equipment and expertise to carryout the study. Agritech will finance the entire study and it will be completed during the current Fiscal Year. The study would enable Government to take a decision regarding a navigation project in River Indus.