Maharashtra and Gujarat River Linking Projects

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Arabinda Ghose**

The Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh on May 3rd, congratulated the Chief Ministers of Maharashtra and Gujarat for signing two Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) providing for two river-linking projects in the two States saying that the development of water resources in an integrated manner and adoption of various short term and long term measures were the need of the hour.

“Water resources projects including inter-basin water transfer play an important role in mitigating imbalances of water availability and likely adverse impacts of climate change”, he said and expressed happiness that the Governments of the two States had joined hands for the effective utilization of the waters of the west-flowing rivers.

The project of inter-linking of rivers “will bring immense benefits to the entire nation and also augment the availability of water for various uses”, he said, extending the stamp of approval once again for a project finalized during the Prime Ministership of Mrs. Indira Gandhi in 1980.

Although during the last thirty years, there was no active proposal to wind up this “highly expensive and not particularly beneficial” project, the extremely slow progress in implementation had made many feel that the project, which was finalized in the form of the National Perspective for Water Resources Development in August 1980, would be given up altogether.

Dr. Manmohan Singh’s participating at the signing of the two Memoranda by the two Chief Ministers, Shri Ashok Chavan of Maharashtra and Shri Narendra Modi of Gujarat at the Prime Minister’s residence – at which the Union Minister of Water Resources Shri Pawan Kumar Bansal too was present he being the third signatory to the memoranda – would strengthen people’s belief that the River-Linking Project would continue. The Memoranda refers to the Par-Tapi-Narmada and the Damangaga-Pinjal links which are part of the west-flowing rivers’ inter-linking scheme.

The Memoranda says among other things that Detailed Project Reports (DPRs) for the joint inter-linking river water management would be prepared during the one year celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the formation of the two States on May 1, 1960 after bifurcation of the composite State of Bombay.

The Par-Tapi-Narmada link will transfer surplus waters available between rivers Par and Tapi in Gujarat to the deficit areas of North Gujarat. It will transfer 1350 million cubic metres through a 402 kilometre long canal by gravity. The total enroute irrigation benefits envisaged are 1.88 lakh hectares in Gujarat. Besides, there is also a provision of generation of 32,5 MW of electricity.

Maharashtra will benefit from the Damangaga-Pinjal link through augmentation of water supply for Mumbai city. The Gujarat Government would be entitled to utilizing remaining spilling over waters from the Bhugal and Khargihill dams in this link.

Waters of the rivers Par, Purna, Oranga, Ambica and Damanganga would be part of this inter-linking project and benefit both the States.

The River-water linking project was formulated in 1980 and an autonomous organization National Water Development Agency (NWDA) was set up for implementation of the schemes. Altogether 30 – links were identified- 14 constituting the Himalayan component and 16, the Peninsular component.

In 1980 it was estimated that all these links would cost Rs.50,000 crore and would provide additional irrigation benefits to 25 million hectares of land by surface waters, 10 million hectares by increased use of ground water and generation of 40 million kilowatt of electricity. Most of the water transfers were envisaged to be by gravity and only 400 feet would have been the maximum lift (pumping).

With NWDA being engaged in preparation of pre-feasibility, feasibility and detailed project reports, the project’s activities were pushed to the background. However, during the severe drought in 2002, the then Government headed by Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee laid great stress on implementation of the inter-linking project. A task force too was constituted and the party in the opposition then, Indian National Congress too had extended support to these moves.

At the end of the National Democratic Alliance rule, the succeeding Congress Party did not abandon the project. However, it has stated that the United Progressive Alliance Government would put stress on the Peninsular component of the Project since it would be necessary to come to agreements with neighbouring countries for implementation of the Himalayan component links. Besides, the Peninsular component would be implemented after full consultations with the affected States and the people.

During the second year of UPA rule in 2005, Chief Ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh had signed an MOU for implementing the Ken-Betwa link in Madhya
Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh while the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister and his Rajasthan counterpart had signed MOUs for implementing the Parbati, Kali Sindh and Chambal link. Actual work on ground for these two links are yet to start.

The May 3 signing of MOUs between Maharashtra and Gujarat is an encouraging development towards implementations of the River-Linking projects.

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Disclaimer : The views expressed by the author in this feature are entirely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of INVC

**Freelance Journalist

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