Singapore: The ambitious river linking project of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government that is aimed at finding a solution to water woes in large parts of India had Union minister Nitin Gadkari marketing for funding for the project among foreign investors.

“The cost of the project is Rs8 lakh crore (Rs8 trillion) and five of the proposals are ready with me and I am waiting for tender. The cost of these projects are Rs3 lakh crore and for these projects, I need long-term finance," said the minister of road transport and highways, shipping and water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation, in a discussion at the MintAsia-Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in Singapore on Friday, 13 April.

The government has a plan to double the income of farmers by 2022 which, Gadkari stressed, cannot be achieved without water management. Apart from enhancing river connectivity, this includes improved drip and pipe irrigation, which will reduce water wastage.

In fact, he added, that he has been in negotiations with investors from other countries like South Korea and Japan for financing the project.

“For this river connectivity project, there is a potential of 60,000 megawatts (MW) of hydropower; so I am working on the scheme. Two days ago, I was in South Korea, now I am discussing with Japan, and we need low-cost interest because it is an infrastructure and irrigation project. Instead of making a canal, we are using pipeline for it. This is going to triple the use of water and it can be a very important project for India," he said.

“River connectivity is a challenge for me. I am even ready to offer them (investors) hydropower by which they can give finance profit," he said.

However, the minister stressed that for other areas like land transport and shipping, there was no dearth of required funding. “In our ministry, I don’t have any problem in terms of fund resources. We have monetized nine projects for national highways, and we are expecting Rs6,000 crore from that. We have a lot of projects which we can monetize...," he added.

Meanwhile, other projects such as Bharatmala—a central government programme to improve efficiency of road traffic movement in the country—the government expects to start the work on 50% of the project as some of the land acquisition is complete, and some others have been started, he said.

“Now we have started express highways. Next week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate two of them—one is a 14-lane express highway, access control. It is Delhi to Dasna, and the other is the Ring Road of Railway-Delhi, which is going to reduce the pollution in Delhi. Now we are planning for 13 express highways, and Delhi to Mumbai," Gadkari said.

Moving on, Gadkari also stressed on the need for the use of bio-fuels such as ethanol for running vehicles, and said that it was a way that India’s farm economy and transport could have a shift.

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