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River-linking on priority

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Friday, March 2, 2012
Says Indian water minister
Our Correspondent, New Delhi


The Indian water resources minister yesterday said the issue of interlinking of rivers was high on the ministry's agenda but maintained it could not move ahead before taking states on board.


"As far as the question of interlinking is concerned, the government is seized of the matter and it is a priority for us. When it comes to the feasibility reports, these were prepared because the government is eager to do it," said Pawan Kumar Bansal, the minister.


But he stressed that water being a state matter, the central government cannot move further without taking the states on board.


His remarks came close on the heels of the Indian Supreme Court asking the government to constitute a committee for implementing the interlinking of rivers.


"It is a very, very difficult project. It is a difficult task to arrive at a consensus among states. They [states] are reluctant to get into an immediate agreement on sharing of water. Also, water is a state subject and we cannot impose anything on anyone.


"But we try to take the concerned states on board. Wherever there is a possibility on those linkages, we try to take them on board," he told reporters.


He said that out of 30 possible links identified, five projects were flagged as priority projects.


"Out of those five projects, the detailed project report [DPR] of Ken-Betwa has been prepared. On others, there are talks between states. In one case, the chief ministers of Maharashtra and Gujarat states signed the MoU for preparing the DPR in the presence of the prime minister recently.... The government considers this to be an important thing," Bansal added.


Of the 30 possible links that were identified, 16 are in the Himalayan component and 14 are in the peninsular component.


Explaining the benefits of interlinking, which Bansal prefers to term transfer of water from surplus basins to deficit basins, the minister said the ultimate irrigation potential which can be created in the country is 140 million hectares, of which 110 million hectares have been created.


"If we are able to transfer water from surplus basins to deficit basins, then another 25 million hectares can be directly created in addition to 140 million hectares," he said, adding another 10 million hectares will be the result of improvement in ground water level.


Source : The Daily Star

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