In one of the major initiatives outside the government sector in the river linking project, the Sathyabhama Deemed University, Chennai organized a national-level conference. The conference on December 1, 2004, addressed the concerns of environmental groups and the issue of displacement of people. In a resolution passed at the end of the conference, the participants said the minimum possible land—cultivable and inhabited would be used. Massive afforestation programmes would be undertaken to off-set the damages done to ecology.
The resolution urged the government to first begin with those river links which were beyond dispute. This would avoid unnecessary delay, it said. The conference was called at the initiative of Shri Jeppiar, the Vice Chancellor of Sathyabhama University. At the inauguration, he highlighted the merits of the project and said it would offer employment opportunities to crores of people, including some 1.5 lakh engineers. The vast areas of land, which are laying fallow because of lack of irrigation could be used. In this context the rising food grain need was also highlighted.
The conference was inaugurated by the Union Minister for Water Resources Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi. He assured that the UPA government had not abandoned the Interlinking of Rivers Project and would take up the matter in phases. “We shall give priority to the peninsular zone rivers” he said. The Union Minister of state for Statistics and Programme Implementation Oscar Fernandes appreciated the efforts of the Sathyabhama Deemed University and urged the students to work towards a stronger and more prosperous India. The interlinking of rivers would contribute to this in great measure, he said.
Among those who attended the conference were Secretary General of International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage, M. Gopalakrishnan and former Chairman of the All India Council for Technical Education Dr. Rame Gowda.