Thursday, Mar 06, 2003
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By Gargi Parsai
Making out a case for interlinking rivers at a national conference organised by FICCI, Mr. Prabhu said "everyone who is opposing the project or raising apprehensions, should not be seen as an opponent, but as a participant because they are just as concerned about the country."
Admitting, "some people will have to be displaced because of the high density of population," he said the issue of displacement of project-affected people, their resettlement and rehabilitation was not done well in the past, "but that does not mean it would not be in the future." Linking the Prime Minister's assurance of providing 10 million jobs a year with the project, Mr. Prabhu said the rivers interlinking project would create new employment. "The definition of jobs is now changing. Now you cannot offer fixed time, fixed tenure jobs. And if we were to create different kind of jobs then this project can make it happen. It can create jobs in agriculture, in the construction sector there will be a new demand for steel and cement and in the process we can address the social, ecological and economic problems."
Mr. Prabhu, who is a former Environment Minister, asserted that the issue of ecology would have to be evaluated. "If any link adversely causes more damage to ecology than bringing benefits, then it will be abandoned. It is possible to assess with new technology how ecological damage can be addressed."
On the criticism about changing the course of the rivers, he said: "this can be seen in simulator models. The apprehensions can be factored in the simulated models.'' He did not feel that the cost estimation of Rs. 560,000 crores is the "real cost". In 10 to 15 years time, "when the GDP will be three times more" the cost would be less than one per cent of the GDP, he claimed. It was not necessary to put the entire cost upfront on the table. "Investment of resources is available in the system. We need instruments to tap these resources. There are experts who are looking at it."
The project will provide an opportunity for coming up with waterways and navigation, which is an efficient, cheaper mode of transportation. It will enhance the per capita consumption of energy and the utilisation of water in totality. However, each State must take up projects to renew water at ground-village level.
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