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Ahluwalia cautions on inter-linking of rivers

New Delhi: Against the backdrop of a Supreme Court direction asking the Centre to constitute a committee for rivers inter-linking, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia today said before inter-basin transfer of water a variety of issues needed to be settled first.

While hoping that the proposed committee under the Water Resources Ministry will strive hard to work on the issue, he said various technical, environmental and economic issues need to be addressed for proposed inter-linking.

Referring to the Himalayan component of rivers inter-linking, Ahluwalia said "effective exploitation" of capacity of these rivers is critically dependent on the international agreements. "It is not a decision India can take alone," he said.

Referring to environmental issues, he said any large scale diversion of water will require environmental impact surveys. He was speaking at a technical session of India Water Week inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh this morning.

Pointing to certain studies, Ahluwalia said interference with the natural flow of river is not a good idea and any diversion which leads to reduction in flow into the Bay of Bengal will alter the layers of salinity in that part of the ocean.

Ahluwalia explained, "…upper layers have lower salinity…if that is altered beyond a certain point, it will alter the build up of heat in Bay of Bengal which could seriously disrupt the monsoon cycle".

On the economic aspects of inter-linking, the Planning Commission deputy chief said if rivers from north and east are connected, then enormous amount of power will be used to pump water upto the Deccan Plateau. "That will introduce additional element of cost surplus in some places," he said.

He also observed that some states are reluctant to agree that they have surplus water and said water that was surplus in 1950 may not be surplus today when its usage has increased manifold. There were 30 possible links were identified. Out of those 16 are in the Himalayan component and 14 are in the peninsular component.

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