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River link-up plan in Delhi pipeline

New Delhi, Feb. 11: The Centre will soon unveil a multi-pronged strategy to link 31 major rivers in India with the aim to generate employment, enhance tourism and riverine transportation.

The government has started confabulations with various chief ministers and a financial package is likely to be announced in the budget due later this month.

The project is expected to cost Rs 5,60,000 crore and when fully implemented will help irrigate an additional 15 crore hectares and generate 35,000 megawatt of electricity.

The government will also use modern technology like the global positioning system (GPS) to help identify emerging ecological problems even as the project is underway and follow that up with preliminary investigation.

“The use of latest available technology like global information system and digital image will help the government reduce the time taken to prepare the feasibility report and detailed project report,” said Nayan Sharma, professor at the water resources development technical committee at the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee.

A proposal to revive the rivers within a state is also likely to be undertaken as part of the government’s initiative to link major rivers in India.

According to the National Water Development Agency (NWDA), 31 major rivers — 14 in the Himalayan region and 17 in the peninsula — will be interlinked as part of the project.

Suresh Prabhu, chairman of the taskforce on Interlinking of major rivers in India, said: “There are a few bottlenecks in undertaking such a project — mindset, fear of displacement and administrative and infrastructure problems.”

He added: “We will soon release a report addressing these issues and the possible solution based on the feedback from the various organisations and the general public. The website of the ministry of water resources has asked the public to submit their comments. We expect to come out with a detailed project report by the middle of this year.”

Commenting on the major obstacle of developing a consensus among the state governments, he said: “Most of the states have supported the initiative. The apprehensions raised by a few states will be sorted out at the various meetings. This project is likely to provide employment to 10 lakh people over the next 10 years and a national waterway to complement the railway and road networks.”

Stressing the need to address the social problems that may arise in implementing the project, Prabhu proposed that the project cost should include the cost of rehabilitation and that a special-purpose vehicle could be set up in association with non-government organisations to disburse resources.

“We may also introduce a user charge for those benefiting from the project. This will help attract private investment since the rate of return on investments will be faster. The success of private sector participation witnessed in the roadways project can be replicated,” said Prabhu.

Raghuraman, senior adviser (energy) at the Confederation of Indian Industry, said: “If the project takes off, we will have a potential to increase the agriculture production and avoid losses due to drought and flood that cost the exchequer Rs 25,000 crore last year.”

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