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Global firms urged to fund water projects for poor

GLOBAL CORPORATIONS will next week be urged to take the unusual step of financing water supply and sewerage projects in some of the world's poorest slums.

Civil engineer Himanshu Parikh will call on a group of major multinational businesses, construction and consulting firms to act as lenders so that urgently needed infrastructure projects can be realised.

The meeting is being organised by the Royal Society of Arts, and is to be the first in a series of events designed by the RSA to bridge the gap between the world's richest corporations and its poorest people.

Parikh will argue that loans from big business are needed because international banks, NGOs and foreign governments are no longer interested in financing basic civil engineering projects.

'Civil engineering isn't fashionable at the moment:the attention of development agencies is on good governance, education and health, ' he told NCE this week.

'You can wait a long time for aid to finance water and sanitation - you may end up waiting for ever.'

But based on over 20 years experience of development work in Indian slums, Parikh claims that provision of basic amenities plays the biggest role in improving quality of life and enabling economic growth.

He has had success over the last decade in getting big local businesses to part fund projects in place of international agencies.

On each project local people are required to put up about a quarter of the total cost.

'Generally, loans are fully repaid within two years of project completion, ' he said.

Parikh now wants to tackle sanitation and water supply in smaller towns and villages where there are no major local businesses to partner with.

Global corporations have the means to help people initiate their own projects, he said.

Firms lending to sanitation projects in Ahmedabad in north west India reported that they had achieved better public relations exposure through their involvement than they would have by spending the same amount of money on advertising, Parikh told NCE.

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