Laying the foundation stone for more than Rs 700 crore worth new projects, including flood prevention scheme, a new barrage across river Cauvery at Kattallai and distributing various welfare assistance to the poor here last night, Mr Karunanidhi declared that the century-old dream of a shipping channel would be achieved as in the case of obtaining classical status for Tamil language.
With the proposed construction of a barrage across Cauvery at Kattallai in Karur district, Tamil Nadu would become the first State to move towards linking intra-state rivers, he claimed.
''We have embarked on this project for the first time in the country. We have long been insisting on linking national rivers, and the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre in its Common Minimum Programme (CMP) had agreed to assess the feasibility. At the recent meeting of the National Development Council, I had pleaded for linking peninsular rivers and Central funding for linking intra-state rivers,'' he added.
He said Union Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz had informed the State Government on February 22 that projects on linking intra-state rivers would be funded under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme.
''In anticipation of the Central assistance, we have sanctioned Rs 165 crore for the barrage construction,'' Mr Karunanidhi added.
Mr Karunanidhi said the proposed barrage having a storage capacity of 1.04 tmcft of water would harness the excess water whenever the river was in spate, taking the surplus flow up to Ramanathapuram district through a canal that would link river Cauvery with Agniyar, Koraiyar, Vaigai and Gundar. Stating that Tamil Nadu was facing problems to meet its water requirements in the absence of perennial rivers, the Chief Minister said the State had to depend upon its neighbours for getting water in rivers flowing from Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.
Even though a verdict was obtained from the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal, which seemed to be slightly favourable to the State, Karnataka was refusing to implement it. ''We continue to suffer and have to struggle, fight legal battles or plead with the Centre to get our due share of water,'' he added.
He said the Central University at Tiruvarur would start functioning from this year, while similar universities would be established at Tiruchirapalli and Coimbatore subsequently.
On the plea by Thottiam Congress MLA Rajasekaran that the State Government should fix Minimum Support Price (MSP) for Banana, the Chief Minister promised to look into it.
Speaking on the occasion, Public Works Department Minister Durai Murugan said the State Government had decided to modernise all the canals in the Cauvery delta region with World Bank assistance.
Union Communication and Information Minister A Raja, state ministers Arcot Veerasamy, K N Nehru, among others spoke at the function.
Earlier, Mr Karunanidhi inspected the ongoing construction works of Rs 12 crore ''Kalaignar Arivalayam,'' which would house Tiruchirapalli District DMK party office.