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Wednesday, Sep 25, 2002

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Study on national river water grid in final stages

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A TECHNO-ECONOMIC feasibility study of a countrywide national river water grid is in the final stages, the Union Urban Development Minister, Mr Anant Kumar, said here today.

Equivalent to the Rs 65,000-crore "golden quadrilateral" national highway project, the proposed grid plans to link Himalayan rivers with the peninsular rivers to create a water network throughout the country.

The grid is expected to provide drinking water, irrigation water, power-generation, inland water transport and as well as a security line along the west .

The project is estimated to cost Rs 1,25,00,000 (1.25 lakh) crore, Mr Kumar said. The country could ask for financial assistance from the World Bank and the ADB. A presentation on the project has already been made to the Deputy Prime Minister and once the feasibility study is done, it will be presented to the Prime Minister, Mr Kumar said.

Taking off from the proposal to link Ganga and Cauvery, the new project looks at linking Ganga to Brahmaputra, Sindhu, Narmada, Mahanadi, Godavari and so on, which are all within 50-80 km of each other, Mr Kumar said.

The project is based on the results of a study undertaken by Dr Kalyan Raman, a former Director of ADB.

Commenting on the grid solving problems such as the current one over Cauvery, Mr Kumar said, "Water is a State subject. If we really have to do anything about it, we must think of it as a national resource." Some of the projects begun in the Fourth and Fifth Plans are still unfinished, he pointed out.

"We have to come up with a long-term policy. A perception has been created in the country that dams are bad for the country," he said. Thanks to the last 10-12 years of good monsoon, nobody has bothered to worry about water resources. Water needs to be used judiciously. People need to go back to the traditional methods of conservation in tanks, wells and so on, he said. Universities have now being asked to work on developing drought-resistant strains of seeds.

`Drought situation has improved'

THE drought situation is not as bad as we thought it was in July end, said Union Minister for Agriculture, Mr Ajit Singh, speaking to newspersons in Bangalore on Tuesday.

The situation has improved, but the failure of even one crop will be disastrous for 65 per cent of the population, which depends on agriculture and is in debt. "The biggest relief is that the rabi crop may not be damaged with the late rains coming in."

On the foodgrain front, there is no shortage of buffer stock, with a little less than 60 lakh tonnes of foodgrains in the godowns. The Centre has allocated around 10 lakh tonnes of foodgrains for the various drought-hit States. Karnataka has been given two lakh tonnes under the food-for-work program, he said.

A Central team will visit Karnataka to examine the financial impact on farmers of releasing water to Tamil Nadu, he said.

Declining to make any comment on the Cauvery issue, he said that the Chief Ministers of the two States must sit together and resolve it.

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