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Linking of rivers: `Government wants to move forward'

By Our Legal Correspondent

NEW DELHI, APRIL 9. The Centre informed the Supreme Court on Friday that "the Government wants to move forward, not backward, on the networking of rivers project."

The Solicitor-General, G.E. Vahanvati, gave the assurance before a Bench, comprising Justice Y.K. Sabharwal and Justice P.P. Naolekar, after the amicus curiae in the case, Ranjit Kumar, expressed apprehension over the disbanding of the special task force on the project appointed by the previous Government.

Feasibility reports

Mr. Vahanvati said the task force had prepared 16 feasibility reports. A special cell had been created in the Union Ministry of Water Resources to coordinate with the States and others. The feasibility reports on interlinking the Parbati, Chambal and Kali Sindhi rivers in which Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan were involved had been submitted and a memorandum of understanding had been signed among the three States. However, certain differences over funding were yet to be sorted out, particularly with the Uttar Pradesh Government.

Prashant Bhushan, counsel for some environmental groups, brought to the court's notice that contrary to its earlier directives, only one out of the 16 feasibility reports had been put on the website. He expressed apprehension over the preparation of the feasibility reports without involving environmentalists.

Obstacles

The Judges told counsel that "this court as well as the public have to put faith on somebody, which is executing the project. Otherwise, it will never take off." Obstacles by non-government organisations in the way of the ambitious Rs. 5.6 lakh crore project would not help anyone.

Mr. Vahanvati agreed with the judges and said: "The Government wants to move forward not backward on the project."

The Bench said: "The project had to go ahead, except when due to environment angle certain deviation is necessary." There could always be two opinions about any issue and such divergent opinion had been expressed since the early fifties. "Otherwise, it would not move ahead."

The Bench wanted all the feasibility reports prepared by the task force to be put on the website so that views from a cross-section of the people could be obtained on various aspects.

In its last status report, the Centre submitted that there appeared to be a general political consensus for networking of rivers provided it was implemented with due care and all relevant aspects, including environment and social concerns, were fully addressed.

The court sought another status report from the Government after three months and adjourned the proceedings till then.

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