Centre to provide 90 per cent funds for 'National Rivers' project

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New Delhi, Jan 30 (UNI) Identifying some rivers as 'National Rivers', the Centre has prepared an elaborate plan to develop these basins in a big manner without encroaching upon the rights over the waters in the respective regions, Union Minister for Water Resources Saifuddin Soz said here today.

Addressing the 8th Editors Conference on Social Sector Issues here, Mr Soz, who refused to give more details since the issue was yet to be cleared by the Cabinet, said it would be a cluster of irrigation, hydro-electric and drinking and flood proofing projects, 90 per cent of which would be funded by the Centre.

This is a proposal no state government will be able to reject or resist and some of the criteria for selection of the rivers include a river having international dimension like the Indus and its tributaries, Teesta and the Yamuna transcending several states including Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.

The water in the Yamuna had become stagnant and unfit for drinking because the states were either not willing to invest or did not have enough resources to take up the project.

The water would remain for the consumption and use by the riparian states and since the funding would be from the Centre, the projects will be irresistible. Moreover, the water should not be allowed to flow into the sea without ensuring its utility to the country, he said.

The Minister refused to say anything about the extent of funds needed but the proposal indicates that it would be a mega investment project.

The run of the river project at river Baglihar would soon be able to start generating 400 MW of power, he said. The project had come under shadow after Pakistan raised objections. But ultimatley India's stand that the project was not violative of the Indus Treaty signed by India and Pakistan was upheld by the World Bank appointed 'Neutral expert'.

Mr Soz refused to give more details of the criteria proposal which was in the last stages of being brought before the Cabinet.

However, some peninsular rivers may also be included once the ongoing disputes were permanently settled, he said without taking the names of inter-state rivers of Cauvery and Krishna, whose disputes were before the River Water Tribunals.

Touching upon the issue of pricing of water for industrial use, Prof Soz said the water cannot be allowed to be used free and certainly it would have to be priced appropriately.

''We are not against the industry deriving a profit but they will have to pay a price. The proposal which had come from the Planning Commission was referred to a Committee of experts and it will come up before the Cabinet.

He said the much awaited Inter-Linking of River project had not been kept on the backburner. The detailed Project Report in respect of Ken-Betwa was being prepared and in one year there will be 'good news' regarding commencement of the project work.

Prof Soz had written letters to the Chief Ministers of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh regarding Parbati-Kalisindh-Chambal link and the two were in active dialogue for an early consensus.

Regarding the Par Tapi-Narmada and Daman-Ganga link, a draft MOU for taking up the DPR had been sent to the states for their concurrance in April 2007. Another three links were likely to be signed soon to enable taking up of DPRs immediately, he added.

UNI MCN SHB DS1613

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