Inland Navigation


The Ganga river holds a great potential for inland navigation as it is perennial and traverses some of the most densely populated parts of India. The Ganga-Bhagirathi Hooghly river system from Haldia to Allahabad (1,620 km) has been declared as National Waterway No. 1  as per National Waterway (Allahabad-Haldia stretch of the Ganga Bhagirathi - Hooghly river) Act 1982 (49 of 1982). It became operative from 27th Oct 1986 after the formation of the Inland Waterway Authority of India (IWAI). The waterway extends from Haldia to Allahabad for a distance of 1620 kms. NW-1 passes through Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.



The National Waterway No.1, Inland Navigation Waterway of Ganga basin is shown here. Its main channel has a depth of more than 10 meters from Patna downstream. Steamers ply regularly on the river upto Buxar near Patna. River Hoogly, an important distributary of the Ganga in its delta course is one of the most intensively navigated waterways in India.


This stretch covered by following sections :

  • Haldia(Sagar)-Farakka-560 km

  • Farakka-Patna-460 km

  • Patna-Allahabad-600 km

The Hooghly river portion of the waterway from Haldia to Nabadwip is tidal. Sea going vessels navigate up to Calcutta (140 kms) and the fairway up to Calcutta is maintained by the Calcutta Port Trust. From Calcutta up to Tribeni there are no restrictions for navigation by inland vessels of a loaded draft up to 4m. From Nabadwip to Jangipur the waterway is formed by Bhagirathi river. Bhagirathi river is a regulated river because of the Barrages at Farakka and Jangipur. With the controlled discharge from the Farakka Barrage and limited river conservancy work a navigable depth of 2m is maintained in this route throughout the year.


From Farakka upstream the navigable route is through the main Ganga river. The Feeder Canal and the navigation lock at Farakka become the link between the Bhagirathi and main Ganga up≠stream Farakka Barrage. The large variation in discharge along with unstable morphological condition of bank and bed, heavy sediment load, continuous braiding and meandering make development of navigational channel a complex task.


The floating terminals at 18 locations and one fixed/permanent terminal RCC Jetty at Patna named as G.R.Jetty-2 with a chainage length of 134.5 km are being maintained on NW-1 for handling cargo vessels and passenger ferries. There are 7 floating terminals on Haldia (Sagar) - Farakka stretch and they are Haldia with a chainage length of 35.0 km, Botanical Garden Jetty (Chainage length - 134.5 km), BISN Jetty (Chainage length - 135.0 km), Shantipur (Chainage length - 241.0 km), Katwa (Chainage length - 334.50 km), Hazardwari (Chainage length - 439 km), and Farakka (Chainage length - 542.0 km). The left 11 floating terminals are on Farakka-Patna-Allahabad stretch and they are Rajmahal in Manglahat (Chainage length - 588 km), Sahebganj in Samdaghat (Chainage length - 617 km), Bateshwarsthan (Chainage length - 683 km), Bhagalpur (Chainage length - 715 km), Munger (Chainage length - 793 km), Semaria(Chainage length - 850 km), Barh (Chainage length - 880 km), Buxar (Chainage length - 1,124 km), Ghazipur (Chainage length - 1,177 km), Rajghat in Varanasi (Chainage length - 1,308 km) and Allahabad (Chainage length - 1,535 km). In order to provide the safe navigation for various cargo vessels, tourist vessels with foreign tourists, local regular service by private operators and mechanized country boats day navigation marks with bamboos and navigational lights fixed on country boats have been also provided from Tribeni to Varanasi.


The traffic on the waterway is steadily increasing.  In 2009-10, NW1 saw 3308 tons carried against 672 tons in 2008-09. Thatís almost a five-fold increase. Most of this was in the lower part of the river from Bengal to Bihar. This does not account for the informal cargo transport (largely sand and timber), which makes up the bulk of the traffic on the river, especially in the upper parts bordering areas such as Uttar Pradesh around Allahabad, Varanasi and Garhmukteshwar.


Who are these 'informal' operators?

The bulk of the traffic on the Ganga is not made up of large ships carying industrial cargo such as ores and machinery, but of smaller boats belonging to people who have been using the river for many generations. In the 18th century, most boats carried salt and sand with a few others carrying cotton and other goods.


Today, sand and timber make up the bulk of the cargo being transported. Excavation of sand from the river banks for sale to the construction industry is common along the Allahabad-Varanasi stretch. While this is largely mechanised with JCBs doing the heavy digging, the design of the boats used for this purpose has not changed over centuries.


Advantage of transporting cargo by boat

If properly managed, transporting by water is not only cheap but also energy-efficient. This could reduce the load on our national highways as well as the resultant pollution.  

How will transportation affect the river? 
Leaks from ships frequently harm aquatic life. The stretch of the Ganga designated as NW1 has two wildlife sanctuaries, the Ramgarh turtle sanctuary (a 7 km stretch) near Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and the Vikramshila Dolphin sanctuary (a 50-km stretch between Sultangaj and Kahalgaon) in Bhagalpur district, Bihar. The rules forbid mechanised boats within the sanctuary limits but there is always a gap betwwen rules and practices.

(Source: 1. India Water Portal 2. India-WRIS)