The Sagar Mala project is a strategic and customer-oriented initiative of the Government of India to modernize India’s Ports so that port-led development can be augmented and coastlines can be developed to contribute in India’s growth. The aim of this project is to develop port infrastructure in India. It should result in quick, efficient and cost-efficient t0 and fro transport from the biggest and busiest ports. This involves linking the rail/road ways with the ports, thus providing connectivity to ports; development of newer regions along the lines, multiple ways of transport— including railways, inland waterways, coastal road ways etc.
The former Prime Minister of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee had announced the Sagar Mala Project in 2003. After the UPA came to power in 2004, it renamed this project as National Maritime Development Programme. The project was eventually marred because of poor implementation, just like several other projects. The UPA II launched Maritime Agenda 2010-2020 with the aim of creating a port capacity of around 3200 MT to handle the expected traffic of about 2500 MT by 2020. It includes capacity augmentation, port modernisation, efficient management of shore infrastructure, maintenance of the ports, rail/road connectivity etc.
The Sagar Mala Project, as of today focusses on three main development factors:
- Efficient Evacuation to and from hinterland.
- Supporting and enabling Port-led development.
- Port Infrastructure enhancement, including modernisation and setting up of new ports.
- Port-led industrialisation
- Port-based urbanisation
- port-based and coastal tourism and recreational activities
- Ship-building, ship repairing and recycling
- Logistics park, warehousing, Maritime zones/services
- Integration with hinterland hubs
- Offshore renewable energy projects with base ports for installations
- modernising existing ports and developing new ports
Advantages of this project:
- Sagarmala, integrated with the development of inland waterways is expected to reduce cost and time for transforming goods, benefiting industries and export/import trade.
- Simplifying procedures used at ports for cargo movement and promotes use of electronic channels for information exchange, leading to quick, efficient, hassle-free and seamless cargo movement.
- Sustainable development of the population living in the Coastal Economic Zone (CEZ), community and rural development, tribal development and employment generation, fisheries and skill development, tourism promotion etc.
- Setting-up coastal clusters for bulk commodities like coal, cement & steel and providing last- mile connectivity of ports with national highways and railway network.
- It will provide a platform for central, state governments and local authorities.
Having said all of this, there are issues coming from the National Fish-workers’ Forum and National Alliance of People’s Movement (NAPM) leadership asserted that such projects were being approved without any thought going into the effects on the fishing community who are settled along the coastline.
The project aims at developing India’s 7500 kms long coastline. Modernising, mechanising and computerising areas which remain to be neglected for a long time. The government hopes to increase its cargo traffic thee times in the next five years. It will benefit around 14% of our country’s population from at least 13 States and Union Territories. In case of inland waterways programme is included, it will benefit at least 55% of the total population. We can only hope that, like other projects, this too doesn’t die a slow death due to implementational issues and political differences.