The government will develop 1,100 islands and 300 light houses across the country to tap their tourism potential, as also convert 101 rivers into waterways, union Minister Nitin Gadkari said here on Tuesday.These projects, the Shipping, Road Transport and Highways Minister said, were desired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi."We intend to invest Rs.50,000 crore in the next two-three years to develop 101 waterways. We will take parliament approval in the upcoming session," Gadkari told a national conference on inland waterways organsied by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).
"The prime minister has also asked us to include a proposal to develop 300 light houses and 1,100 islands," Gadkari said, adding that a proposal to this effect has already been sent to the Prime Minister's Office.The minister said in the one year that he has been in government, the public-private partnership mode has taken root in the country after a slump. Accordingly, he added, the tourism and inland waterways projects will be handled under this model."Out of the 101 rivers that are to be converted into waterways, detailed project reports for 16 of them are likely to be completed this month itself, while for another 40, these would be ready by December this year," Gadkari said.
"Inland Waterways are economically the most viable sector. As such, they should be an integral part of infrastructure development," he said.This, he added, can lower the costs of production and logistics to make India's products more competitive globally. Job potential is also huge.Ministry officials said plans on waterways include inter-modal connectivity with rail and road on selected places depending on cargo projections. They said the north-eastern states were already connected through waterways via Bangladesh.Speaking about other initiatives, the minister said the government plans to establish facilities for ship-building and ship-repairing at Guwahati, Kandla and Andaman and Nicobar Islands in near future.