Perhaps the apprehension of those opposing the nationalisation of rivers stems from the misunderstanding of the term itself. However, abject surrender of our rivers and ‘centralising of the water bodies’ is not among the terms used by the government that visualises the multifarious benefits of the project. SURAJ NANDREKAR talks to Transport Minister Ramkrishna (Sudin) Dhavalikar to understand the crux of the issue
HERALD: Why should the process of nationalisation of Goa’s rivers be initiated?
DHAVALIKAR: Nationalisation of rivers is important for smooth navigational routes. Also, the State government does not have the necessary funds to dredge the rivers at such a massive level. The NGOs that are opposing the nationalisation of rivers should first visit the Sal River. I have covered the entire stretch of River Sal. Years ago the width of Sal River much more but if we look today it has nothing much to offer.
HERALD: If so why is there resistance from people for nationalisation of rivers?
DHAVALIKAR: Nationalisation of rivers is very important and the term nationalisation doesn’t mean we are giving away the rivers to the Centre. Whatever fund we will be receiving from the Centre will be used for river dredging, whatever rights are of the fishermen should be given to them, and similarly the rights of boat owners should be given to them. Also tourism places can be created along rivers.
HERALD: Not only people, but elected representatives and NGO’s are also against nationalisation, what do you have to say?
DHAVALIKAR: I do not know the issues that these NGOs are fighting for, but the concept of nationalisation of rivers in people’s mind is wrong. We should take the benefit of funds from the Centre for the betterment of the State.
HERALD: Are you keen on Bharatmala project?
DHAVALIKAR: I would take the people opposing the Bharatmala project under which roads in Goa's coastal belt will be widened; also people will be taken into confidence and work out ways to save the bars and residences that face possible demolition. Losing our Rs 8,500 crore that Goa will get under the project is not an option. I will be calling a meet with the bar owners' association. In places where residences are being affected, we can work out alternative routes or build over-bridges or under-bridges. But we cannot lose down the Rs 8,500 crore we are getting.