Saturday, Sep 14, 2002
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He said the recent drought had highlighted the fact that water should be treated as a "national resource'' and the Centre should have a say in the distribution of this precious resource.
Speaking at a "brainstorming session on management of drought, 2002'', he said there should be a national water policy.
The K.L. Rao Committee report on connecting the country's rivers through a national grid should be re-examined. "Since inter-linking of rivers will need the consent of the States, I will raise the issue at the forthcoming meeting of the National Development Council next month,'' he said.
Apart from linking rivers, it was important to lay emphasis on the traditional methods of water conservation as no amount of irrigation system involving canals and reservoirs can substitute rain water.
"We have to conserve water as monsoon rains take place only for a few months,'' he added.
The Minister said 12 years of good monsoon appeared to have made the States complacent as almost half of the tubewells and borewells in some States were now in disuse due to lack of proper maintenance.
The rains in August augured well for the next rabi crops by improving the soil moisture, though it might not be of much help for the revival of the kharif crop damaged in July.
The current rains would improve the availability of drinking water and fodder but could harm bajra in some areas.
However, fears of acute shortage of oilseeds and edible oil had been allayed because of the recent rains and the prospects for soyabean and groundnut had enhanced in States such as Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.
He said the drought would have an adverse impact on the overall economy as agriculture accounted for about 24 per cent to the GDP.
A comfortable FOREX situation and foodgrain reserves would ensure that consumers were not hit, but farmers would be impacted because of erosion of their income base.
Rural areas were hit harder by this drought.
The drought had affected a number of industries such as fertilizer, pesticide, pharmaceutical, herbal and cosmetic products besides the consumable goods industries.
Mr. Singh said the affected States were now utilising the advance assistance released from the Calamity Relief Fund (CRF) and the Task Force headed by the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, would finalise a comprehensive relief package after analysing detailed inputs from Central teams.
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