For centuries the Indus River system was the life line of transport in the Indian Sub-Continent. During the early part of the 20th century river transport was gradually replaced by the newly built railroad system, which was cheap and effective at that time. Rail cargo, in turn, slowly shifted to trucks.
Both these means of transport were cheap till after the Arab-Israel war, when in 1974 oil prices started climbing. Oil prices fluctuate over the decades following as low as US$ 15 a barrel to US$ 150 a barrel. At a realistic minimum projected price for the future, even at US$ 100 per barrel, transport by truck has become prohibitive. Infrastructure of roads and railroads costs billions of dollars to build and maintain. For a country which imports oil and has severe resource constraints, there is no alternative but to develop a water transport system based on rivers and an extensive canal network. Besides saving foreign exchange for importing fuel, huge amounts will also be saved on railway and road infrastructure. Reduction in transport cost per ton would make exports more competitive; and consumer goods will become cheaper for the public.It is with all the above in mind that we have initiated the Inland Water Transport Development Company. It has the full support of the Government of Punjab, with the target of starting cargo movement on the indus river as early as possible .
Currently thousands of lives are lost every year in road accidents, primarily due to heavy load of traffic and poor state of roads. Cargo movement on the waterways provides safety of life and reduction in road causalities. A proper planned waterway system can contribute substantially to flood control and reduce damage which is also causing heavy loss of life and property every year.
Private sector owners of cargo (who would save freight charges) and operators of river craft (who see the potential of a very lucrative business) have welcomed the initiative and are enthusiastic about participating in it. A whole new industry will also grow around repair and building of water craft, terminal construction and operations, surveying services, dredging services and a broad range of spinoff activities along the first stretch of the 200 km of the river. This is a challenging and exciting project, which we have no doubt will be successfully implemented by a dedicated and professional team.