Jairam’s statement on ‘hazards’ of linking rivers draws flakhttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/ahmedabad/jairams-statement-on-hazards-of-linking-rivers-draws-flak/

Jairam’s statement on ‘hazards’ of linking rivers draws flak

Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh’s statement that “the interlinking of India’s rivers will be a human-ecological-economic disaster” has drawn flak from the Gujarat government.

Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh’s statement that “the interlinking of India’s rivers will be a human-ecological-economic disaster” has drawn flak from the Gujarat government.

“I agree with the Union Minister that it is not that easy to implement river-linking projects,as it involves huge costs. But,I would not agree that such projects would prove disastrous”,said Gujarat Water Resources Minister Nitin Patel.

He told Newsline on Tuesday: “At least half-a-dozen intra-state river linking schemes,including Sujalam Sufalam,Sabarmati-Saraswati and Bhadar-Mahi links are being implemented by the state government. They have started yielding positive results and mitigated the potable as well as irrigation water woes in several parched areas of north and central Gujarat.”

Contesting the Union Minister’s statement,he said the inter-linking of rivers could never pose any threat to ecology. The river-linking schemes being implemented across Gujarat have not only brought relief to people living in the drought-prone parts of the state,but also increased greenery and improved environment in such areas.

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“River linking exercise is a costly affair as it involves a huge expenditure on purchase of land for laying link canals,but our government accords top priority to the availability of water in the state,” he said.

Former Union Water Resources Secretary B N Nawalawala,who is now advisor to Chief Minister Narendra Modi on water resources,justified the inter-linking of rivers. He said in view of “the rainfall pattern and water resources’ potential being highly uneven in our country,water transfer from surplus basins to deficit areas is a sensible proposition”.

The former bureaucrat said it was during Indira Gandhi’s regime in 1982 that the National Water Development Agency had been set up to study the possibility of water transfers from surplus basins to deficit areas. Since then,environmentalists have been opposing the inter-linking of rivers scheme which was then known as a National Perspective Plan.

He said: “I would not comment more on what Ramesh has said. In 1992-93,we were both joint secretaries in the Central Planning Commission. He is a highly competent and intelligent person. But,there is nothing wrong in linking rivers to solve the water problem being faced in several parts of the country.”

Nawalawala said there was a provision of “minimum environmental flow” in the original scheme (of inter-linking of rivers),among other safeguards,to sustain downstream ecology.

He,however,felt that all available local water resources should be optimally harnessed before going for inter-linking of rivers.

In August,Chief Minister Narendra Modi had written to the Prime Minister,urging him to implement the inter-linking of all major rivers under the scheme formulated by the erstwhile NDA regime.

Modi had also sought funds from the Centre for linking the Par-Tapi-Narmada rivers,besides other small rivers across Gujarat.

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The cost of this proposed river linking scheme is estimated at Rs 3,000 crore. The National Water Development Agency is busy preparing a Detailed Project Report for this and also the Damanganga-Pinjal river linking scheme.