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MP quartet meet to push river project

New Delhi, July 9: Four Lok Sabha MPs from Bihar and Jharkhand met in Delhi today to push for a interstate river reservoir project held up for years due to pending environment and wildlife clearances, a move that might adversely impact Palamau Tiger Reserve but benefit lakhs of farmers.

The quartet decided to ask Union minister of state (independent charge) for environment, forests and climate change Prakash Javadekar to expedite the North Koel river reservoir project, a joint venture between the two states.

The four MPs are Union minister of state Upendra Kushwaha of Karakat, Sushil Kumar Singh of Aurangabad and Hari Majhi of Gaya, all Bihar Lok Sabha seats, and Sunil Singh from Chatra in Jharkhand.

The project on North Koel, a tributary of Sone, will benefit irrigation in Aurangabad and Gaya in Bihar and Palamau and Garhwa in Jharkhand.

The dam and barrage falls in Jharkhand but the distribution system covers both states.

The Planning Commission had approved the project way back in 1984. Since then, a dam has been built, but river closure had not been tried because it was feared that a major part of Palamau Tiger Reserve would be affected.

Currently six tigers, including one male, are believed to be present at Jharkhand’s sole big cat reserve.

However, Chatra MP Sunil Singh said the project, once operational, would benefit over five lakh farmers.

“North Koel flows in the western part of Palamau and falls in Sone. The district is a rain shadow area with very few rivers. The situation is not much better in other nearby districts in both Bihar and Jharkhand. We want Centre to intervene at the earliest and the project operational to give relief to over five lakh farmers,” he said.

He further added that taking advantage of the regulated water discharge and the artificial head created by the dam, cheap hydel power could be generated.

“Javadekarji has been stressing that projects stalled unnecessarily due to environment clearances will now be given priority. That’s why we are hopeful this project too would get a green light soon,” he said.

According to the proposal, the complete project includes composite dam across North Koel near village Kutku, a barrage, 96km downstream of Kutku dam and two main canals.

The right main canal is 109km long, with 31km in Jharkhand and 78km in Bihar, and will have the potential to irrigate 12,470 hectares in Palamau and 1,11,800 hectares in Bihar. The left main canal is 11.81km and falls completely in Jharkhand. It will irrigate 2,320 hectares in Garhwa.

While the original project cost was Rs 47.77 crore when it was envisaged 30 years ago, it has escalated to Rs 1289.50 crore after revised estimation. Officials said upto March 2011, Rs 755.96 crore had already been spent.