Sunday, June 10, 2007

Bihar takes lead in reviving river inter-linking project

hree years after the Central government virtually abandoned the mega project of inter-linking of rivers, the government of Bihar is coming out with a proposal to link various river basins within the state.

Gujarat, too, is toying with a similar idea. What’s more, Tamil Nadu chief minister M Karunanidhi recently said that the linking of the southern rivers — Godavari, Krishna and Cauvery — could be taken up immediately.

In Bihar, the project of transferring water in 12 river basins in the state could cost around Rs 35,000 crore, principal secretary of Bihar’s water resources ministry A K Sinha told SundayET.

The state government, which plans to undertake five projects, including Baghmati multipurpse project and Koshi-Mechi link during this fiscal, may require up to 10 years to complete the entire work in 12 basins.

Significantly, the NDA government, led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, not only undertook the mega project of inter-linking of rivers, guestimated to cost Rs 1,58,000 crore, but the Supreme Court, too, supported the move.

“For Bihar, it will be an integrated approach of irrigation, flood control and drainage. It’s unlikely that the funding can be done through public private partnership (PPP) mode as the returns will come only through agriculture. However, we expect 50% of funds to come from the Central government,” Mr Sinha said.

Satish C Jha, chairman, special task force on Bihar and a member of PM’s Economic Advisory Council, told SundayET that a better understanding with Nepal was key to control flood in the state and also evolve a better system of irrigation.

“The inter-linking of rivers within the state is an innovative idea. But what we need is a better understanding with Nepal and replicate the success story of the Mekong basin involving various countries,” Mr Jha said.

Former head of the task force on inter-linking of rivers Suresh Prabhu argued that it should be a two-way approach. “What Bihar is doing now is a bottom-up approach. We need that too. Inter-linking of rivers should be done in an intergrated manner involving both augmentation and conservation,” said Mr Prabhu.

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