MK lays foundation for drinking water project in TN

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Chennai, Feb 26: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi today laid the foundation stone for the Hoganekkal Water Supply and Fluorosis Mitigation project, giving a fillip to the more than 40-year-old dream of the people of Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri districts of getting safe drinking water.

Conceptualised way back in 1965 by the Kamaraj Government as Hoganekkal drinking water project to provide piped drinking water upto Chennai at a cost of Rs 25 crore. The project, however, witnessed several twists and turns over the years. Resolving to implement the project, which was high on the Government's agenda, the project finally took a formal shape when the DMK Chief deputed his son and Local Administration Minister M K Stalin to Japan to seek financial assistance.

Mr Stalin, who led a high level delegation two weeks back, convinced the authorities of Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) about the importance of the project and the Japanese funding agency had agreed to provide 85 per cent of the project cost as loan.

The JBIC would provide Rs 1,141 crore as loan at an interest of 1.25 per cent for the Rs 1,330 crore project aimed at providing safe drinking water to the fluoride-affected rural habitations and urban towns in the districts.

The project, a long-standing demand of the people of the two districts, would cover 6,755 households in three municipalities, 17 panchayats and 18 town panchayats benefitting a total of 30 lakh people.
After the Congress Government of Kamaraj mooted it in 1965, the AIADMK regime in 1986 headed by MGR revived it by christening it as ''Kamaraj Plan Project'' meant to cater to Dharmapuri, Tiruvannamalai, Vellore, Salem and Cuddalore districts at a cost of Rs 110 crore. The DMK Government in 1989 evinced interest and estimated the project cost at Rs 175 crore, before the Jayalalithaa Government tried to implement it in the Ninth Plan period, at a cost of Rs 450 crore in 1994.

The project received a shot in the arm when the Karunanidhi regime in 1997 approached the Japan-based Overseas Economic Community Federation and got its approval for funding.

But the State, which was reeling under the height of Cauvery tension with neighbouring Karnataka, could not implement it after experts suggested that it could be executed after the resolution of the Cauvery river water-sharing dispute.

The project, which was close to the DMK Chief's heart, once again got a fillip when the Central Water Commission advised the DMK Government in 1998 to approach the Oil Production and Exporting Countries (OPEC) for asssitance. However, it could not take off.

Despite mounting costs, the project got a fresh lease of life in 2003 when the AIADMK Government decided to take a fresh look and fixed the estimated project cost at Rs 1,008 crore.

However, the DMK government's decision last year to launch it at any cost, enabled the project to finally see the light at the end of tunnel.

UNI

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