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Gogoi hails Centre move

- Delhi moots Brahmaputra basin authority

New Delhi, Dec. 28: Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi, while supporting a central proposal to create the Brahmaputra River Valley Authority (BRVA), today said interests of upper as well as lower riparian states should be equally recognised.

Speaking at the National Water Resources Council meeting to discuss the National Water Policy, 2012, Gogoi welcomed the Centre’s proposal for setting up statutory river basin authorities to replace boards. “Assam will welcome establishment of the authority,” the chief minister said.

Gogoi’s remarks came at a time when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today called for judicious management of water resources in a country with 18 per cent of the world’s population and only four per cent of its usable fresh water.

Formation of the authority is at the proposal stage, with circulation of a cabinet note to various ministries and consultation with different states.

If approved, the Brahmaputra Board may be upgraded to the BRVA while the earlier proposed North Eastern Water Resources Authority (NEWRA), which Arunachal Pradesh had opposed, may not take off, reliable sources said. NEWRA was meant to build consensus on water-related issues at political, technical and administrative levels in states. The river basin authorities are to play a similar role, the sources added.

Gogoi said it was high time the functioning of institutions for water governance was reviewed, in particular, the interstate river boards. Such technical bodies have not been effective in guiding proper and sustainable conservation, use and management of water resources or in resolving river water disputes, he said.

Meanwhile, Assam is facing protests against the Lower Subansiri hydel project in Arunachal Pradesh with protesters accusing that Gogoi was not doing enough to get enough power for lower riparian Assam.

Gogoi today asserted that while deciding on any project or a scheme involving the use of multi-state river water, all riparian states should mandatorily be consulted. The consultations should be made in assessing the impact on the environment, rehabilitation measures, agriculture, and in formulating environmental impact assessment and ameliorative measures.

“Similarly, the interests of all riparian states, upper as well as lower, should be equally recognised while deciding on the benefits from such schemes,” he said, adding that this should be suitably reflected in allocation of free and priced electricity to the states affected by hydel projects.

The Centre should disburse special financial assistance packages to the affected states for agreed measures to mitigate the impact of such hydroelectric schemes. In this case, he seemed to have alluded to not only the present hydel projects in upper riparian Arunachal Pradesh but also at the forthcoming deluge of projects in that state. The Centre has projected a potential of no less than 30,000MW hydropower from Arunachal alone.

The use of our river water should be based on the concept of territorial integrity that reinforces commonality of purpose and states that lower riparian states also have a right to the natural flow of a river.

“Upper riparian states can use it but must allow the waters to flow unchanged in quantity and quality,” the chief minister said.

Gogoi’s idea is that in any water related dispute, the concept of equitable apportionment should be the guiding principle for arbitration. He said recognition of this as an overarching policy principle would enable better cooperation and coordination in harnessing water resources.