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Centre to disband Task Force on interlinking of rivers

By Gargi Parsai

NEW DELHI, DEC. 25. The Centre has decided to constitute a Special Cell on Interlinking of Rivers under the Ministry of Water Resources in place of the high profile Task Force, which is being disbanded.

The venue of the Task Force — Trikoot in Bhikaji Cama Place — has already been pledged to the newly-constituted Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal, which is yet to hold its first formal meeting.

The Cell, to be headed by a bureaucrat, would coordinate with a Committee of Experts, which will be announced shortly. Some of the experts who are being taken on board include the former Water Resources Secretary, Z. Hasan, Alwar's `waterman' Rajendra Singh and environmentalist Ashok Khosla. The term of the experts who formed part of the Task Force has not been renewed.

The suggestion to involve experts on the socio-economic aspect was made by the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, last month, when the Union Water Resources Ministry made a presentation on interlinking of rivers. With the Common Minimum Programme focus on starting interlinking with peninsular rivers, it is likely that the Ministry would take up the Ken-Betwa and Parbati-Kalisindh-Chambal links first, which involve Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Rehabilitation package

Sources said the Committee would advise the Government on the socio-economic aspects including the impact on displaced populations, their occupations and on environment during the preparation of the Detailed Project Reports. It will advise on a rehabilitation and resettlement package and suggest the agency for implementation.

While the Minister for Water Resources, Priyaranjan Dasmunshi, is likely to meet the Chief Ministers soon to evolve a political consensus, a Consensus Group headed by the Central Water Commission Chairman has had meetings with the engineers of the three States.

Not satisfied

Rajasthan has sought larger share of water under the Parbati-Kalisindh-Chambal link. The Uttar Pradesh Government is also not satisfied with the proposed feasibility report on the Ken-Betwa link with Madhya Pradesh prepared by the National Water Development Agency.

Both the links are estimated to cost about Rs. 8,500 crores, whereas all the 30 links proposed under the interlinking plan are estimated at Rs. 560,000 crores.

The Task Force headed by Suresh Prabhu had given its Action Plan II on the financial aspect but the United Progressive Alliance Government is yet to take a view on it. It had suggested imposition of cess, taxes and duties on certain items to raise funds for the project and recommended fund mobilisation through a combination of private funding, public-private partnership and public funding.

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