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River board revamp in mind

Guwahati, Dec. 11: Union water resources minister Harish Rawat has informed Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi that the final decision on restructuring the Brahmaputra Board as basin-level organisation/authority will be taken after completion of a consultative process with other states of the Northeast and the Brahmaputra Board.

In a letter to Gogoi, Rawat said his ministry had been examining the different issues raised by the chief minister in his memorandum to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the latter’s visit to Assam on April 20 this year.

Rawat said the draft document outlining the restructuring of the Brahmaputra Board had been sent to other northeastern states and the Brahmaputra Board for their views and the final decision on the matter would be taken on completion of the consultative process.

The draft document says the water resources ministry’s review found that the board lacked the mandate for basin-level planning for integrated water resources development and management with a multi-disciplinary approach. It also suffered from a lack of ownership of plans by the state governments, overwhelming emphasis on flood and drainage work and the apparent concentration of work in Assam alone.

According to sources, the new entity, which will emerge once the board is restructured, is the Brahmaputra River Valley Authority. And it will have political representation to give it more teeth.

The proposed authority will have two parts — a policy making apex council and an executive wing — the latter responsible for implementing the decisions of the apex council.

The draft document says the authority will actively involve the top political executives of the Northeast and one of the chief ministers shall be the deputy chairman of the council on rotational basis (in alphabetical order).

The purpose of the authority will be to promote and co-ordinate effective planning and management for the equitable, efficient and sustainable use of water, land and other natural resources of the Brahmaputra basin.

On developing the North Eastern Hydraulic and Allied Research Institute (NEHARI), Rawat said the ministry was concerned about the issue and had directed the authorities to expedite the matter.

With regard to Gogoi’s plea to enhance the funding pattern for Command Area Development Works from 50:50 to 90:10 for Special Category States, including Assam, Rawat said the proposal to enhance the funding pattern was under active consideration of the ministry.

Rawat also responded Gogoi request for a separate research-cum-training institute in Guwahati. The Union minister pointed out that there was no need for a separate institute because the ministry had measures to make the North Eastern Regional Institute of Land and Water Management (NERIWALM) at Tezpur a centre of excellence in the field of research, training and capacity building.

NERIWALM runs various courses for training and capacity building of personnel engaged in water resources development and management. “The facilities for training and capacity building at the institute will be further strengthened as and when the need arises,” Rawat said.


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