The World Bank has recommended to Pakistan for establishing an Inland Waterway Authority (IWA) at the federal level for developing, regulating, monitoring, promoting and standardising inland waterways transportation (IWT) through major legislation.
“The government may opt for one of the following legislative pathways for establishing the IWA, (i) through resolution(s) on behalf of one or more provincial assemblies giving consent to the parliament to legislate for the establishment of IWA at the federal level and (ii) through direct legislation by the parliament (using the ‘Commerce Clause’) for the establishment of IWA at the federal level. A summary could be initiated through appropriate Ministry by seeking concurrence of the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination”, recommended the World Bank in its report “inland waterways transport in Pakistan an implementable vision for revival and development.”
The report was prepared on the request of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Government of Pakistan and provides a roadmap for revival and implementation of the IWT.
The bank has observed that although the subject-matter has been devolved to the provinces, especially after the 18th Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan, there are options available in the Constitution to overcome such difficulty,
(i) under Part V (Relations between Federation and Provinces), Chapter 1 (Distribution of Legislative Powers). Under the provisions of Article 141, the Parliament is empowered to make laws having extra-territorial operation, (ii) in terms of Article 144 of the Constitution, the Parliament has been empowered to legislate for one or more provinces by consent, (iii) or by a direct approach by using entry No27 of the Federal Legislative List, which is the basic “Commerce Clause” of the Constitution, allowing it to legislate to formulate institutional structure for an Inland Waterways Authority at the federal level. There are a number of precedence e.g. National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (“NEPRA”), Indus River System Authority (IRSA) etc.
The IWA can be set up at the federal level under the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, to oversee, manage and develop the IWT, with representation of relevant federal ministries and provincial departments in the board. Active stakeholder participation should be an important element at all stages of development.
The report observed that the transportation of goods and people via inland waterways has lost its position in Pakistan during the last decades due to the development of land transport systems and the prioritization of other uses of waterways.
Despite a series of studies and even pilot projects in the past, the IWT has received limited attention at the highest levels of government, resulting in limited action towards IWT revival and development. No entity is currently responsible for IWT development in Pakistan and a regulatory authority for the sector does not exist.
The report noted that developing IWT is socio-economically viable and is likely to result in major economic gains for the country as demonstrated by freight and passenger flow projections, multimodal transport cost modeling, multimodal shift potential estimation and simplified socio-economic cost-benefit analysis.
The bank has also recommended for establishing an IWT Cell at the Ministry of Maritime Affairs to streamline current IWT operations and lay the groundwork for IWT development and institution-building. The IWT Cell should be tasked with the following functions that require immediate government attention: conducting a detailed feasibility assessment to inform the development of a comprehensive Strategy and implementation plan for IWT development in Pakistan, preparation of a comprehensive strategy and implementation plan for IWT development through an inclusive multi-stakeholder process, building stakeholder consensus and securing high-level approval for the strategy and implementation plan for IWT development, laying the groundwork and building stakeholder consensus for setting up of an IWA and working on IWT legal and regulatory framework as well as financing mechanism, starting with development of standard operating procedures (SOPs) for current IWT operations and a monitoring framework for improving of safety levels.
The report further recommended for ensure that the future IWA has a clear mandate, covering (a) IWT policy formulation and implementation; (b) regulation, monitoring and standardization of the IWT Sector; (c) IWT market development. However, its mandate should not include any other water management issues which must remain with existing authorities and agencies tasked with managing other waterway uses (such as irrigation and hydropower).
Following its foundation, the IWA must develop a comprehensive legislative and regulatory framework which deals with technical specifications for vessels, educational qualifications for crews and operators, environmental standards and safeguards, traffic rules and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for IWT operations.
The story was originally published in Business Recorder on March 5, 2022.