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Kerala, TN to sign pact on river waters in March

Our Bureau

Thiruvananthapuram , Jan. 4

THE Chief Ministers of Kerala and Tamil Nadu will meet in March to sign a revised Parambikkulam-Aliyar inter-State river water sharing agreement, as per the understanding reached at the end of `successful' ministerial-level talks held here on Sunday.

Briefing newspersons here, the Kerala Minister for Water Resources, Mr T. M. Jacob, and the Tamil Nadu Minister for Public Works and Revenue, Mr O. Panneerselvam, said `considerable ground' had been covered in the Thiruvananthapuram round of talks, sixth in the series, and a broad agreement reached on five core issues.

The Ministers said they were hopeful of resolving the remaining issues in `due course'. Also, the revised Parambikkulam-Aliyar agreement would now have a provision for review once in every 30 years

It was agreed that the two Chief Ministers meet in Thiruvananthapuram or Chennai in March itself, that is if prospective Lok Sabha elections did not intervene.

Earlier on Sunday morning, the Tamil Nadu delegation arrived here by a specially chartered flight and plunged headlong into full-fledged discussions with the host delegation that went on for three hours. This was a follow-up to the ministerial-level meeting held in Chennai two months ago.

The issues that were taken up in Sunday's talks included release of water from Neerar weir to Kerala, water sharing in the Parambikkulam sub-basin, release of water to Kerala branch of Sholayar and maintenance of reservoir level, release of water into Chittoorpuzha and allocation of enhanced supplies to Kerala from the Manakadavu weir.

Kerala has been pressing for a compensation provision in the revised agreement. However, no agreement could be reached on this count.

According to Mr Jacob, the two governments had `almost reached' a final settlement on outstanding water sharing issues relating to Neerar, Anamalayar, Parambikkulam, Sholayar and Aliyar.

Besides Mr Jacob and Mr Panneerselvam, Finance Ministers of the respective governments, Mr K. Sankaranarayanan and Mr C. Ponnaiyan, were also present in the talks.

The Parambikkulam-Aliyar dispute has been hanging fire for well over the past 15 years. The two States signed the agreement as far back as on May 29, 1970. It provided for setting up a series of dams and weirs in the Bharathapuzha, Chalakkudippuzha and Periyar river basins and sharing of waters `in a way that would benefit both the States'.

Kerala has since argued that the terms of the agreement were `heavily loaded' in favour of the neighbouring State, largely accounting for the slow death of its three major rivers, Bharathapuzha, Chalakkudippuzha and Periyar. These are inter-State rivers and some of their tributaries originate from Tamil Nadu and flow into the Arabian Sea through Kerala.

Kerala has also contended that diversion of water from the river scheme had deprived it of a potential capacity for generating electricity worth crores of rupees.

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