India Prime Minister Narendra Modi has inaugurated a new inland waterways terminal on Ganges River in Varanasi in the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP).

The multimodal container terminal has also received its first cargo vessel that is loaded with a consignment of food and beverage company Pepsico.

The vessel started its journey from Kolkata, India, in the last week of October, connecting the eastern part of UP with the Bay of Bengal through the water route.

Modi was quoted by as saying: “For the first time since Independence, we are using our extensive river network for commerce at this scale.

“It should have happened decades ago, but we have finally made it happen now.”

The inland waterway is expected to save time and money, as well as bring down congestion on roads and reduce the cost of fuel and pollution.

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The newly opened terminal is the first of four multi-modal facilities being developed on National Waterway-1 (NW-1), Ganges River.

“For the first time since Independence, we are using our extensive river network for commerce at this scale.”

It is part of the Inland Waterways Authority of India’s Jal Marg Vikas project that has received funding from the World Bank.

The project is expected to require an investment of around Rs53.69bn ($737m). Half of this will be provided by both the Government of India and World Bank, reported Press Trust of India.

The other three terminals of the project are currently under construction at Sahibganj, Jharkhand; Haldia, West Bengal; and Gazipur, UP.

Following completion, the project is expected to enable the commercial movement of vessels with a capacity of 1,500dwt-2,000dwt on Ganges River.