LAHORE  - The Punjab government has approved a plan to establish Punjab Inland Waterways Transport Development Company to run water transport in rivers and canals of the province, The Nation has learnt.

Sources in the provincial government told this reporter that Rs 500 million had been approved for this purpose. A study to run water transport in the Indus River from Attock to Daood Khel would be conducted initially while the government had approved Rs 60 million for the purpose. It was also disclosed that such a study was also conducted by the Pakistan Navy that declared the project of Indus waterways feasible.

Now, once again, the government has decided to conduct a comprehensive study before launching the project.

A summary in this regard was forwarded to the chief minister’s office and approved, the sources said. The Irrigation Department has forwarded a letter to the provincial tourism department to initiate a project to start water transport from Jallo Mor to Thokar Niaz Beg in the first step. Feasibility study of the project will be carried out before execution of the project. After the report, the project will be extended to other canals of the province. It was further disclosed that in the first step transport would be started from Doctors Hospital to Thokar Niaz Beg.

Besides suggesting some ways for triggering the private sector’s involvement in the inland water transport, the major policy issues which may hamper the involvement of private investors to participate in the sector would be resolved. The study will focus on boat sizes, bridges on canals and rivers and the cost etc.

The Punjab government has also collected data on the navigation systems being run in different countries of the world. The data shows total area of navigation systems in Russia as 6.592 million sq km and the length of its channels as 143,000km, in the US the navigation system area is 3.6187 million sq km and the length is 72,500km, in the UK the area of navigation systems is 244,046 sq km and the length of water channels 6,800km. Likewise, in France the navigation area is over 547,026 sq km and length 10,500 km, in Germany, the area is 356,975 sq km and its channels’ length 5,900km, in Belgium, the area and length are 30,513 sq km and 2,000km, respectively.

In Holland, it spreads over the area of 40,884 sq km and its length is 6,000km, in India the area and length of navigation channels is 3.590 sq km and 14,544km while in Bangladesh the total area of navigation is 143,998 sq km and length is 12,882km.

A Punjab government officer, conditioning anonymity, said that it was a big step of the present regime towards the use of water channels for transportation as well as tourism purposes

. For the first time in the history, with the participation of the private sector, the project would prove to be a success story, he said. The cooperation of the provincial governments is a strategic element to expand the network of inland water beyond Punjab, the officer stated.

Inland waterways, he said, were historically recognised as vital ways of communication. Though they had been neglected in the past because of the rails, roads and air transportation, for lesser environmental effects the advanced countries started using water channels.

When asked, whether the provincial government would table a bill in the assembly to regulate inland waterways as was done by the government of India in the shape of Inland Waterways Authority of India Act (1985), the official said it would be difficult to nod prior to the feasibly study.