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Interlinking of rivers buried,Jairam says idea a disaster

Less than a month after Rahul Gandhi warned against “playing with nature”,Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh....

Less than a month after Rahul Gandhi warned against “playing with nature”,Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh said the idea of interlinking India’s rivers was a “disaster”,putting a question mark on the future of the ambitious project.

“The interlinking of rivers will be a human-ecological-economic disaster. It is easy to do interlinking on paper. Interlinking of rivers has limited basin value,but largescale interlinking would be a disaster,” Ramesh said at a press briefing today.

In Chennai last month,Rahul had expressed concern over the environmental fallout of interlinking. “We should not play with nature on such a massive scale,” he was quoted as saying.

The remark drew flak from UPA ally DMK,which reminded Rahul that it was Indira Gandhi who set up the National Water Development Agency in 1982 to study the possibility of water transfers from surplus basins to deficit areas. DMK chief M Karunanidhi pointed out that UPA-I’s 2004 National Common Minimum Programme had promised “a comprehensive assessment of the feasibility of linking of rivers… starting with south-bound rivers”.

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Asked about the party’s stand on the issue,the Congress remained non-committal.

“It is a larger issue. It is not a magic wand. There is an awesome scale of interlinking. It is a super long term solution,and not a medium or short-term solution,” spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi said.

“I don’t think anybody is rejecting or accepting it. After 25 years of considerable expenditure,you may still have the same problem. Unless you are sure,you can’t embark on it. It is a project with extremely multifarious aspects and the jury is out,” Singhvi said.

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The Interlinking of Rivers programme has had a peninsular focus,and five links have been identified as priority. A group headed by the Central Water Commission chairman has had seven meetings in the past five years: one for the Ken-Betwa link,three for the Parbati-Kalisindh-Chambal link,one for the Godavari (Polavaram)-Krishna (Vijayawada) link,and two for the Par-Tapi-Narmada and Damanganga-Pinjal links taken together.

First published on: 06-10-2009 at 05:10 IST
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