Incessant rains lashing out some states and a near drought like situation in other states has led the Union water ministry to dust off the proposal of inter-linking of rivers, conceived by the previous National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.
The government now believes the inter-basin transfer of water is the most effective ways to address issues of food security by increasing the food grain production, mitigating floods and droughts and reducing regional imbalance in the availability of water.
The government has now identified 30 links, of which 14 are in the Himalayan region involving neighbouring countries. An official note prepared for consultations on the issue, says that while rains damaged houses and crops worth Rs 600 crore in Uttrakhand recently, the Maharashtra government is demanding Rs 2,857 crore to tackle drought.
Rejecting claims that the proposal was shelved by the UPA government after assuming office in 2004, Union minister for water resources Pawan Bansal said he has begun consultations with stakeholders and experts to go ahead with the mega-plan. “We had not shelved the proposal. In fact the MoU on Ken-Betwa project between Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh was signed during our government in 2005,” he said. It is, however, an open fact that the UPA government had gone slow on the project, so dear to the previous NDA regime.
The minister said they would soon call a meeting of water secretaries of states to review the proposal and also to allay fears of some states. He said the inter-basin transfer of water from surplus basins to deficit ones has become all the more important. “Regional variations in the rainfall lead to situations when some parts of the country do not have enough water even for raising a single crop. On the other hand, excess rainfall occurring in some parts of the country creates havoc due to floods,” he said. The government hopes that resistance from some states shall come down when the River Basin Authorities — conceived under the proposed new national water policy — come into force.
The minister said that for some proposed linkages, mostly Himalyan rivers, the storage dams are located in Nepal and Bhutan. “We have approached the ministry of external affairs for seeking permission from neighbouring countries for carrying out survey and investigation works in their territories,” the minister added.