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Wednesday, March 3, 1999 Published at 14:26 GMT

UK Politics

UK seeks India's transport tips

Transport problems: Can India's experience help Britain's cities ?

By Environment Correspondent Alex Kirby

The Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, who starts a visit to India on 4 March, says he hopes to learn valuable lessons there about transport problems.

Mr Prescott, who is also Environment and Transport Secretary, says one of the aims of his trip is "to gain an understanding of the transport issues affecting major Indian cities".

"It's about moving people between different modes of transport. I don't know what I'll learn - but I'm going out willing to learn what I can."

Asked if this meant he would be seeking to apply Indian solutions to Britain's own transport problems, Mr Prescott told BBC News Online: "You can always learn from different countries.

"We learnt from South Africa that smaller buses can do something bigger ones cannot. They enable black entrepreneurs with little capital to enter the market.

"I'm learning all the time. I'm learning from you."

In Mumbai (formerly Bombay) he will visit a scheme in which British Gas is involved for converting taxis to run on natural gas.

Mr Prescott will be taking a letter from Prime Minister Tony Blair to his Indian counterpart, Mr AB Vajpayee.

More cash for tigers

The deputy prime minister described Anglo-Indian relations as "a good, lasting, valued friendship between two leading members of the Commonwealth".

He will speak at the Millennium Tiger Conference in Delhi, where he will announce a further British donation of £50,000 towards conservation plans (the UK initiative known as 21st Century Tiger).

That will bring to £200,000 the total UK support aimed at helping to save the tiger in India and neighbouring countries.

[ image: The Maldives: The waves lap ever higher]
The Maldives: The waves lap ever higher
In his talks with the Indian Environment Minister, Suresh Prabhu, John Prescott will cover climate change and technology transfer.

This is especially important to developing countries like India, which want access to the best technology to enable them to deal with air pollution and greenhouse gases.

After India Mr Prescott is due to visit the Maldives, one of the Indian Ocean archipelagoes worried at the prospect of sea levels rising as climate change takes hold.

He said: "I'm not proposing to go to the Maldives and be King Canute.

"But these island communities are threatened with wipe-out by climate change and rising sea levels.

"They face extinction. And I don't think people appreciate that."

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