Rivers interlinking: Govt to take states on board

New Delhi: With the Supreme Court asking the Centre to constitute a committee for inter-linking of rivers, government today said the issue was high on its agenda but maintained that it cannot move ahead before taking states on board as water is a state subject.

"As far as the question of interlinking is concerned, the government is seized of the matter and it is a priority for us. When it comes to the feasibility reports, these were prepared because the government is eager to do it," Water Resources Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal told PTI here.

But at the same time, Bansal stressed that water being a state subject, the Centre cannot move further without taking the states on board.

"It is a very very difficult project. It is a difficult task to arrive at a consensus among states. They are reluctant to get into an immediate agreement on sharing of water. Also water is a state subject and we cannot impose anything on anyone. But we try to work, try to take the concerned states on board. Wherever there is a possibility on those linkages, we try to take them on board," he said.

He said, out of 30 possible links identified, five projects were flagged as priority projects. "Out of those five projects, the Ken-Betwa DPR has been prepared. On others, there are talks between states. In one case, the Chief Ministers of Maharashtra and Gujarat signed the MoU for preparing the DPR in the presence of the Prime Minister recently…. The government considers this to be an important thing," Bansal said.

There were 30 possible links that were identified. Out of those 16 are in the Himalayan component and 14 are in the peninsular component.

Explaining the benefits of inter-linking – which Bansal prefers to term as transfer of water from surplus basins to deficit basins – the Minister said the ultimate irrigation potential which can be created in the country is 140 million hectares of which 110 million hectares has been created.

"If we are able to transfer water from surplus basins to deficit basins, then another 25 million ha can be directly created in addition to 140 million ha," he said, adding that another 10 million ha will be the result of improvement in the ground water level. On the apex court order, he said the Ministry will study it on how to go about implementing it.