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Tide turns: plan to link rivers back

New Delhi, July 10: Finance minister Arun Jaitley today proposed an outlay of Rs 100 crore to revive a grand but controversial plan to link a few large rivers that some hydrologists believe could help India overcome a looming water scarcity.

Scientists said the plan would allow water to be geographically distributed more equitably.

The Union water resources ministry’s National Water Development Agency had released a plan in 2003 to set up over 30 links between rivers across India — a Brahmaputra-Ganga link, a Ganga-Damodar-Subarnarekha link, a Narmada-Tapi link and a Godavari-Krishna link among others.

India’s rivers play a key role in irrigation and cultivation and serve as a source of drinking water. “Unfortunately, the country is not uniformly blessed with perennial rivers,” Jaitley said today. “An effort to link the rivers can give rich dividends to the country.”

The Atal Bihari Vajpee-led NDA government had about a decade ago initiated discussions on the proposal to interlink rivers.

In an analysis of the proposal to interlink rivers published earlier this year in the journal Environmental Law Reporter, Abhimanyu George Jain from the National Law University, India, and Armin Rosecranz from Stanford University said the opposition to the project from some state governments was a big hurdle to its implementation.

Jaitley today also proposed Rs 2,037 crore for an Integrated Ganga Conservation Mission called Namami Ganga.

A research paper by scientists at the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Ahmedabad, had estimated that the interlinking project would generate an extra 174 cubic kilometres of water each year.