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Naidu push for river link-up

New Delhi, Sept. 7: Telugu Desam Party chief Chandrababu Naidu has demanded linking up the Ganga and Cauvery rivers to mitigate floods and droughts in several states, including Andhra Pradesh.

Andhra chief minister took up the matter with Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and vice-president Bhairon Singh Shekhawat when he visited them last fortnight, sources said.

Naidu told Vajpayee that if all the rivers across the country were linked, it could offer a permanent solution for flood and drought-related conditions. He said the government could entrust the job to private parties on the lines of the National Highway project and raise money through bonds.

He requested the Prime Minister to convene a meeting of chief ministers to discuss the issue.

Sources in the water resource ministry, however, said they were at a loss to understand Naiduís new found interest in linking inter-state rivers. They said Andhra Pradesh had earlier been opposed to the idea.

It had even opposed a proposal to link the Krishna and Godavari. The main grouse was that the methodology of calculating surplus water was incorrect.

Sources said the ministry had drawn up a framework for 30 links of various rivers in the country at an estimated cost of Rs 3 lakh crore and had got a feasibility report done by the National Water Development Agency. The agency had submitted a feasibility report involving six links. But most of the states did not show any interest.

Ministry officials said the project would not only control flood and drought, but also generate hydro-electricity in a big way. It could also provide waterways and promote national integration.

Meanwhile, a Central team is leaving for Hyderabad on September 9 to study the drought situation and assess the damage caused to crops and shortage of fodder. Naidu, when he called on Vajpayee on August 28, had demanded Rs 810 crore and 15 lakh metric tonnes of rice.

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