Call to harness NE water resources

GUWAHATI, June 28 - An imaginative action plan is required to harness the water resources of North East India for long-term economic gains. The endeavour, in due time, would also open up job opportunities for more than 20 lakh people.

In the absence of such an approach, water resources have not been duly tapped and apart from Assam and Arunachal Pradesh more than half the population of the other states do not have access to safe drinking water.

This has been stated by Ranjit Barthakur, who recently published a document on using local natural assets for the development of North East India.

Speaking to The Assam Tribune, Barthakur emphasized that water that is abundant in many parts of the region should be managed better, and requires a more collaborative effort among the states as many of the rivers and streams are spread over neighbouring states.

He underlined the need for estimating the value of fresh water and incorporating it into the region's Net Domestic Product. Without this, planning of related economic activities would be difficult.

Barthakur, who heads the think-tank Balipara Tract and Frontier Foundation, believes that the action plan must include a component of inland water transport. As water transport is cost effective and especially useful for carrying bulk cargo, it would bring economic relief to transporters and at the same time enlarge employment opportunities which today are minuscule.

He asserts that time has come to think of developing river ports in some key areas along the Brahmaputra and Barak to facilitate movement of vessels on the rivers. He says, "The impact of developing Inland Water Transport on the two rivers through 119 terminals will create around 21 lakh jobs besides leading to capital formation estimated at Rs 90,000 crore.”

As a step towards improved management of the region's water resources, Barthakur underlined the need for closer ties among academic and research institutions of the North East. He has also called for setting up a Water Management Institute in Assam with the mandate to study, document and carry out research of the region's lakes, rivers and wetlands.