For many of the poorest people in the world water transport is their only means of mobility and access to basic services. Improvements made in rural water transport technologies, infrastructure and services have the potential to eliminate poverty and reduce isolation. Yet in a transport climate dominated by motorised vehicles and roads, traditional waterways have been neglected
This paper draws upon the outputs of the International Forum for Rural Transport and Development's Waterways and Livelihoods networked research project to explore the importance of rural water transport (RWT) in the lives of the rural poor and ask why RWT has become a marginalised issue. It also introduces a new networking and information resource developed to
promote the integration of rural water transport through improved policy and practice both within the transport sector and in the wider development community.
The lack of integration of RWT in mainstream transport and development planning is manifest in the deterioration of traditional waterways and infrastructure, and in conflicts between waterway use and land transport (or other) interventions. Its consequences are the lost opportunities for
poor people to improve their livelihoods, and the lost potential to develop ecologically and financially sustainable transport technologies.
So why has rural water transport been neglected? The Waterways and Livelihoods research identified a lack of positive visibility as the prevailing factor. Products of which include poor perceptions of RWT as outmoded and unsafe, a dearth of reliable statistical information on the sector, and an 'unfair playing field' through which RWT suffers in comparison to other transport options.
Czuczman, K. Waterways and Livelihoods: Journey to the Mainstream? (2004)