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River-link cost likely to fall: Prabhu

Chennai, April 16: The chairman of the Central Government Task Force on Interlinking of Rivers, Suresh Prabhu, today said the cost of the project to fight drought and floods could be reduced but the new cost estimates would have to await the detailed project report.

Asserting that the task force was working on the cost aspects, Prabhu said the cost-benefit ratio would have to be feasible even while the benefits from the possibility of an additional hydroelectric power generation of 35,000 mw to 40,000 mw are factored into the project’s cost estimates.

Initiating the discussions at a national workshop on Jal Swaraj: Facing The Water Emergency — organised by the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation’s Media Resource Centre and the Hyderabad-based International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics — Prabhu cautioned against any quick-fix approach to complex issues concerning the project.

“Instead of blaming the government, let us as a society jointly do this study on the project’s feasibility from all points of view, take a holistic approach and look at the issues comprehensively in addressing water security in its totality,” Prabhu urged.

Making it clear that the project under consideration was not the “old Ganga-Cauvery link”, Prabhu said the idea was to link the Himalayan rivers and the peninsular rivers separately. These would be the two main components of the project, which envisaged some 30 links.

Using the best institutional set-ups and experts available in each field ,including the IITs, the task force has already initiated detailed studies on the technology that would be feasible, a detailed ecological impact assessment of each scheme under the project, hydrological studies, possible displacement of people and wildlife habitats, Prabhu said.

Even prima facie, the benefits of the project, being studied by the National Water Development Agency for the last 21 years, were numerous, Prabhu said. It included improving the irrigation potential by 40 million hectares and stepping up food production to 450 million tonnes.

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