In the last six years, the Modi government has created much hype around the Delhi-Agra Waterway Project. Nitin Gadkari, the former Union Minister for ports, shipping, and waterways, has been boasting about the Delhi-Agra waterway since 2014.
On December 3, 2014, Gadkari said, “Soon people can go to Agra via Delhi through the Yamuna. We will request the prime minister and the finance minister to ensure special funds for the project.”
Later in 2015, Gadkari again said that he had ordered a feasibility study report and was very optimistic that the work on the project would start soon. Later in December 2016, he revealed that the people would be able to sail from Delhi to Agra very soon through the waterway project and it would bring down the cost of transportation between the two cities.
On March 5, 2019, Gadkari once again boasted about the waterway project and said that a Rs 12,000 crore project for developing a water route from Delhi to Agra to Prayagraj has been prepared.
However, now, after selling this dream project to the people of the country for more than six years, the government scrapped the project because it was not found economically viable in the techno-economic feasibility report.
“River Yamuna from Jagatpur (6 km upstream of Wazirabad Barrage), Delhi to the confluence of Yamuna and Ganga rivers at Sangam, Prayagraj (which includes the waterway stretch from Delhi to Agra) was declared as National Waterway-1 10 (NW-l 1 0) under the National Waterways Act, 2016. Detailed Project Report (DPR) of NW-1 10 to assess the techno-economic feasibility of the project was completed in January 2020.
“As per the DPR, the project has not been found viable,” said the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, headed by Shri Mansukh L. Mandaviya.
So, the waterway project that was being sold by the union ministry to the people of the country, especially of Delhi-NCR, for the last six years, is never going to be on the ground. This hurts the image of the government that has invested so much in infrastructure and is talking about an infrastructure investment-led economy for the upcoming decade.
If a project is found to be viable by the top international agencies, it might be so. But selling it to the people of the country for six years without having a Detailed Project Report (DPR) on feasibility is definitely like selling hollow dreams.
A few weeks ago, PM Modi inaugurated a slew of infrastructure projects including highways, railway lines, dams, and bridges. “Those who ruled for decades since Independence believed Dispur was too distant from Delhi. ‘Dilli ab door nahi aapke darwaaze par hai’ (Delhi is not far now, it stands at your doorstep),” he told to the large crowd gathered to hear Prime Minister.
Prior to that, Prime Minister Modi inaugurated many infrastructure projects in two other poll-bound states in Southern India, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. “The great Malayalam poet Kumaran Asan said ‘I am not asking your caste, sister, I ask for water. I’m thirsty.’ Development and good governance do not know caste, creed, race, gender, religion or language. Development is for everyone,” said PM Modi.
The message that the government is trying to send is very clear. The elections would now be fought on infrastructure, not freebies. And amid this, a project that the government boasted for six years, was cancelled because the Ministry started throwing it for media headlines before the feasibility report.