The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cash carrot to water donors

New Delhi, Oct. 29: The Centre hopes to work out a way to financially reward states which provide excess water to their water-deficient counterparts.

It hopes this will help resolve the disputes that crop up regularly among riparian states over water-sharing

“We must work out a formula under which a state that transfers river water to other states gets monetary benefits. Only then will it be a win-win situation for all,” said Suresh Prabhu today. The chairman of the task force set up to oversee a controversial project to interlink 37 rivers through 31 links and 9,000 km of canals, was addressing a national conference organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry here today.

However, Prabhu would not say by when the task force would work out a formula.

Water disputes have riven states — especially in the Cauvery basin — and have sparked intense political machinations and never-ending litigation. Atal Bihari Vajpayee has been trying for years to resolve the Cauvery water dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, but with little success.

Until now, historical data on water-sharing and court-mandated formulas have been used to resolve disputes. Most attempts to find a solution have focused on proportional sharing of water during times of drought and other adversities.

“The longevity of the (interlinking) project depends on the participation of all the political parties and other social elements,” Prabhu said.

He added that “political will” in the country is generated by public awareness and people’s willingness to implement lasting solutions.

The chairman admitted that it takes a long while for a political consensus to emerge.

“We need to find a scientific solution to the problem that is invested with far too many emotive issues. If we allow emotions to run, there can be no solution to the problem,” Prabhu said.

He added that politicians always look for ways to avoid taking unpleasant decisions — in this case, rainfall or the lack of it helped them abdicate responsibility.

Union water resources minister Arjun Charan Sethi, who was also present at the conference, said: “Unless we have adequate rainfall each year, the suggestions made by environmentalists and other experts to the task force will not work.”

He said the Cauvery delta area had not received water for three years and as such, “I’m apprehensive of the approach and suggestions made by ecologists and various other non-governmental organisations”.

Sethi added that the Supreme Court, the Prime Minister and his deputy, L.K. Advani were convinced that droughts and floods would not end unless rivers are interlinked.

Experts believe the interlinking will allow water-surplus states to come to the rescue of water-deficient areas. They also think that the Keynesian multiplier effect of public expenses will help generate increased economic activity.

The experts reckon that interlinking will prevent the big crop losses that occur each year. In 2002, India suffered Rs 25,000 crore crop losses arising from severe drought in some regions.

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