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Interlinking of rivers: SPV to rehabilitate the displaced

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CHENNAI, April 17

THE Union Government will set up a special purpose vehicle to rehabilitate the people who are displaced due to interlinking of rivers, according to Mr Suresh Prabhu, Chairman, Task Force on Interlinking of Rivers.

The Government will take up the project only after the issues concerned, including social and environmental, are fully resolved. The funds for the special purpose vehicle will be earmarked and allocated upfront as part of the project cost.

Under the scheme, the Himalayan rivers would be interlinked as also the peninsular rivers. The ecological impact including the impact on various habitats and wildlife, and issues such as salinity, ground water and desertification would all be studied, he said.

According to Mr Prabhu, over 30 links are envisaged and it would be cost beneficial, particularly, against the backdrop of the various benefits that such linking would offer. The interlinking offers an opportunity to augment availability of water, recharge ground water, generate employment, create new water ways and presents a potential to set up about 35,000 - 40,000 MW of hydel projects. It would augment water for irrigation by about 100 billion cubic metres and increase water availability to the ecosystems, he said at a workshop here.

The taskforce will take into account all the issues and will not do anything that will damage the environment. The social issue of displacement will be an opportunity to provide better quality of life, which the special purpose vehicle will address. The National Water Development Agency has carried out elaborate studies in the last two decades and experts in India and abroad were being consulted, he said.

With agriculture being predominantly rain fed creation of storage facilities and watershed management at the village level were important.

The taskforce was in discussion with the Indian Space Research Organisation to use satellite imagery to develop watersheds at the village level. Most of the rains were received within a 3-4 month period and most of it was concentrated over two weeks. Therefore, storage and watershed management were crucial to enhance water availability, he said.

The media workshop was organised by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation.

Talks on virtual varsity

AT a press conference following the workshop, Dr Dyno Keatinge, Deputy Director General - Research, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, said that the institute was discussing with the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation for setting up a virtual university for semi-arid tropics. It would put information on the Web covering the regions in Africa, Sri Lanka and India. This would make available the latest information on technologies available, he said.

The research institute, supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, was actively working on a biotechnology programme to augment the rate and efficiency of conventional breeding programmes. It has a range of genetically engineered crops in the pipeline including insect resistant groundnuts. A hybrid pigeon pea variety it was developing would have an output that would be about 25 - 30 per cent higher than conventional variety.

Combined with the disease resistance against insects developed using biotechnology tools, its output could be double that of the conventional varieties, he said.

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