Centre plans ‘national tag’ for state’s river interlinking project with Gujarat

Centre to bear 90% cost, state stakes claim to surplus water.

Written by Sandeep A Ashar | Mumbai | Published: March 13, 2015 2:31:56 am

The Centre has decided to fund 90 per cent of the project cost for a river interlinking project involving Maharashtra and Gujarat. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis Thursday said the Union government had agreed to accord “national project” tag to the ambitious Par-Tapi-Narmada interlinking project.

Once tagged nationally important, states can collectively seek 90 per cent of the project’s cost from the Centre. The project, which would involve construction of seven dams over a 2,573-sq-km catchment area across the two states, is estimated to cost Rs 6,000 crore.

“Union Minister for Water Resources and River Development Uma Bharti has agreed to declare it as a national project,” Fadnavis informed the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly during a discussion on Thursday. Official sources said the interlinking project was vital to both states as it was expected to bring an additional 2.69 lakh hectare farm land under irrigation.

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Fadnavis indicated that the “national project” label would benefit Maharashtra the most. With Gujarat accounting for a higher catchment area, Fadnavis said Maharashtra would need to construct 14 smaller dams and implement lift irrigation to tap its share of water.

The Maharashtra government has also staked claim to surplus water from the project.

On Maharashtra’s side, the project is expected to provide irrigation benefit to the drought-prone North Maharashtra belt. While the Opposition has been alleging that the understanding arrived at between the two states over water sharing favoured Gujarat, Fadnavis denied this. He said, “We won’t allow even a drop of water from Maharashtra’s share to go to Gujarat.”

Turning tables on the Opposition, the CM said it was during the erstwhile Congress-NCP regime that the original memorandum of understanding (MoU) was inked in this regard, which he claimed did not give Maharashtra its due share. “But we will make amends,” he said.

Fadnavis also rubbished similar allegations that the Damanganga-Pinjal river linking arrangement between the states favoured Gujarat more.

“This is baseless. Maharashtra will get 75 per cent water share from the project,” he announced, adding that his government had decided to utilise this water made available entirely to meet Mumbai’s drinking water requirements.

“This water source would be sufficient to meet additional water requirements of the financial capital for the next five decades,” said the CM. “Once this is achieved, the state has plans to utilise water from the Vaitarna river, which presently meets Mumbai’s needs, to supply water to water-starved Marathwada belt,” he added.

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