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PERCEPTION MANAGEMENT OF WATER RESOURCES PROJECTS: SOME LESSONS FOR ENGINEERS

Congress: 2008
Author(s):
Qualification of Main Author : Master of Engineering, Master of Law, Post Graduate Diploma in Personnel Management, Post Diploma in Computer Applications Qualifications of the Co-author : Ph.D. in Civil Engineering

Keyword(s): Perception, Bhakra-Nangal Project, Sardar Sarovar Project, green revolution, beneficiaries, stakeholders, information science, data monitoring, documentation
Article:
AbstractIn this era calling for ‘Sustainable Development’, developmental activities are subject to scrutiny not only by the stockholders but practically by one and all irrespective of their concern. Experience has shown that even in absence of any convincing logic, water resources projects are questioned on various grounds ranging from human rights to economic viability and from hydrology to social and environmental impacts. On one hand this has helped improve the project planning and implementation, on the other many projects have had to suffer in terms of inordinate time and cost overrun apart from delayed benefits. In this backdrop, this paper highlights urgent need of perception management of water resources projects right from its conceptualization to avoid inapposite controversies. The role and responsibility of media in this whole process are discussed by citing relevant examples. Attempt has been made to analyze some interesting cases like Bhakra-Nangal Project and Sardar Sarovar Project of India. It is concluded that it is as important to build the perception as building the project itself. Bhakra-Nangal Project, a legendary icon of water resources development in the independent India, has been regarded as “the modern temple”. This project, responsible with a few others for “Green Revolution”, that have played vital role in enhancing food security in India, is not being spared from criticism even after proven performance. Perceptions of beneficiaries, other stakeholders and people in this regard have been historically positive and yet attempts to put such perceptions at stake are going on. The paper critically examines swirling debates spearheaded by environmentalists, water management experts, activists, bureaucrats, policy planners, and general public and tries to draw lessons to be learnt by engineers. Sardar Sarovar Project, currently in its advanced stage of completion, is one of the largest water resources projects of the world. This has been the most studied project of the world and is an exemplary case of meeting the challenges. The project has been questioned on every count, be it human, social, economic, environmental and even political, and has always emerged as ‘the life line’ according to general public opinion. This paper presents narrations of both, ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ campaigns and their impacts on project implementation. Demonstrating how badly the project had to suffer in terms of delay in implementation and associated cost increase because of perception issues despite its tremendous potential benefits and strong base of scientific planning, the paper emphasizes on the need to pay focused attention on perception management of ongoing or future projects. The paper concludes that just creating awareness about the project features amongst the stakeholders is not enough if the project has to successfully meet the challenges from external forces; rather, perception building and its management as a product of data collection, monitoring and information science is the need of the hour. Institutional linkages and documentation of the project elements are identified as essential tools to serve the purpose.
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