Sunday, Apr 27, 2003
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By Gargi Parsai
Multilateral funding from the World Bank or the Asian Development Bank might be the ultimate recourse for raising funds for the mega project, although this aspect is officially being played down. The Chairman of the Task Force, Suresh Prabhu, and senior officials of the National Water Development Agency have been in touch with the World Bank not only for finances but also for importing the best practices in the construction of dams. About 37 dams are proposed to be constructed on various rivers under the interlinking project.
Other ideas floating around include raising funds through a cess as in the Prime Minister's rural roads scheme or from the capital market. There is no transparency on this issue but the Monday meeting is expected to be specific on from where money would be raised for the eight links.
The eight links for which the feasibility studies have been completed include the Godavari (Polavaram)-Krishna (Vijaywada), Krishna (Nagarjunasagar)-Pennar (Somasila), Krishna (Srisailam)-Pennar (Prodattur), Damanganga-Pinjal, Par-Tapi-Narmada, Ken-Betwa, and Pamba-Achankovil-Vaippar in the peninsular component and the Sarada-Yamuna link under the Himalayan component. While political and social consensus is yet to be worked out to connect 14 Himalayan and 16 peninsular rivers at a total estimated cost of Rs. 5,60,000 crores, the Task Force has its job laid out for it. As per a schedule set by the PMO, it must submit its Action Plan-I by April 30.
The Task Force, in tandem with the Ministry of Water Resources, has worked out a two-pronged strategy for arriving at a consensus. One is at the political level and the other is through frequent meetings held by the Central Water Commission with the Chief Water Engineers of the States.
It is largely felt that if a consensus is worked out with the leaders of the political parties in power, the States ruled by them would fall in line, despite objections raised by Maharashtra, Bihar, Punjab and Kerala to name a few.
After finalising the feasibility of the links with the Water Resources Ministry, the Task Force will discuss the issue with the Chief Ministers for acceptance and modifications, if any.
An omnibus agreement among the States is also being planned for an inter-basin sharing of the river waters. This process will be completed before the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, convenes a meeting of the Chief Ministers by May/June.
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