Panjim: Union Minister for Shipping Nitin Gadkari has said that the declaration of Goa’s rivers as National Waterways neither implies “ceding control” by the State to the Central Government nor does it “tantamount to Nationalisation”.
Gadkari in a communication to Congress MLA Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco on June 6, said that developing rivers for commercial navigation has huge positive benefits for the economy.
Lourenco in a letter to the Union Minister on March 22 had put across the strong opposition by the people of the State to declaration of six rivers as national waterways, and demanded that the people’s opinion be respected and the six rivers denotified from the purview of National Waterways Act.
“Declaration of lifelines of Goa as national waterways infringes on the Constitutional rights vested in the State enshrined in our Constitution,” he had said.
As a reply, Gadkari said that “at a broad level, it results in new jobs and enhances competitiveness of the manufacturing sector”.
The Minister said that for the purpose of investment in developing rivers for cargo and passenger movement by the Central government, it is required that the rivers be declared as national waterway by an Act of Parliament.
“It does not result in nationalisation as the development of the river takes place in close co-ordination with the State government concerned,” he sought to clarify. “All other rights on the river remain with the State government,” Minister added.
Gadkari said he believes that the further development of Goa’s rivers as national waterways will usher in socio-economic development of the local population residing in the vicinity of these rivers with adequate safeguards to protect cultural heritage, economic, environmental and ecological balance.
The Congress MLA had put across before the Ministry that Gram Sabhas of over 100 villages in Goa have resolved to oppose declaration of rivers as national waterways and having coal hub and coal corridor in Goa.
“Questions have been raised on the manner in which the State government acquiesced to the inclusion of the six rivers in the national waterways and thereby conceded their control to the Central government, without taking the legislature and stakeholders into confidence,” Lourenco had said.
“Even the approval of the council of ministers was not taken as expressly required under the extant rules of business,” he had added.
The MLA had pointed out that from times immemorial, the rivers of Goa have been connected with the daily existence of its indigenous population, especially the fisher folk and agriculturists.
“Nationalisation of rivers would jeopardise forever their livelihood opportunities on these water bodies and on the appurtenant land,” he had claimed. [H]