The Centre has set in motion the process of creating the National Interlinking of Rivers Authority (NIRA), an independent autonomous body for planning, investigation, financing and the implementation of the river interlinking projects in the country.
NIRA, to be headed by a Government of India Secretary-rank officer, will replace the existing National Water Development Agency (NWDA) and will function as an umbrella body for all river linking projects. The new body will coordinate with neighbouring countries and concerned states and departments and will also have powers on issues related to environment, wildlife and forest clearances under river linking projects and their legal aspects.
A source privy to the deliberations said, “It was discussed and agreed upon in the meeting of the Special Committee for Interlinking of Rivers. However, the minutes of the meeting are yet to be finalised. It may take 3-4 days.”
The ministry will soon send a note to the Union Cabinet for approval, the source said. “Constitution of NIRA through a notification of approval by the Cabinet would be a preferred route for its early constitution,” the source said, adding that the Ministry of Law and Justice has already given its green signal for the establishment of the new body.
The Task Force for Interlinking of Rivers (TFILR) has already deliberated on the proposal of the constitution of the NIRA on October 22.
Explained: Broader mandate than existing body
NIRA will have the power to raise funds and act as a repository of borrowed funds or money received on deposit or loan given on interest. Besides, it will also have a mandate to coordinate with neighbouring countries “as directed” by the Ministry of Jal Shakti or the Ministry of External Affairs. It will also have the power to set up a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for individual link projects.