(i) Geographical challenges :
- Geographical constraints: There are problems in smooth navigation because of waterfalls and cataracts, as in Narmada and Tapti.
- Increased siltation: Reduced navigability due to siltation, as in the Bhagirathi-Hooghly and in the Buckingham Canal.
- Reduced water flow: Reduced flow due to diversion of water for irrigation, for instance, in the Ganga which makes it difficult even for steamers to ply.
(ii) Technical challenges :
- Lack of navigation infrastructure: Rudimentary infrastructure coupled with non-availability of water round the year is an impediment for operation of waterways.
- Inadequate depth: Lack of inadequate depth of waterways for commercial movement of cargo is a major concern. Also quality of water flow is becoming poorer progressively.
(iii) Financial challenges :
Construction of dams/barrage to increase depth of navigation faces challenges of economic viability.
(iv) Regulatory challenges :
- There is lack of modal integration of and detailed mapping of waterways and industrial clusters and also lack of integration of hinterland coastal shipping with international maritime traffic.
- Lack of level playing policy (waterways were not on the national horizon for planning and connectivity for long time) among different modes of transport.
- Lack of uniformity in legal and administrative issues as inland waterways move through more than one state.
(v) Political challenges :
Inter-linking of rivers is a major issue, which is yet to materialize.