DECCAN HERALD Thursday, February 24, 2000

Centre wants water in concurrent list

NEW DELHI, Feb 23 (UNI)

The Central government has initiated steps to put the water resources on the concurrent list for speedy disposal of pending river disputes and to create a national water grid.

The water resources are purely a state subject and the Centre cannot enact any legislation to settle the inter-state river waters disputes, regulate the water resources managment and to take up construction of dams.

Talking to newspersons here today, Water Resources Minister C P Thakur said his ministry was also consulting legal experts to cut short the lengthy process of the constitutional amendment required for the purpose. Ordinarily, he said, the Centre had to circulate the proposed amendments to the states to take their concurrence before introducing a related bill into parliament.

''In the absence of any power with the centre, the inter-state river disputes are pending for several decades, the construction of dams hanging fire and various irrigiation projects are lying incomplete,`` the minister said.

He added that the Centre`s role ''is not even that of a referee and in the case of a inter-state dispute it could only set up a tribunal and whatever the decision of the tribunal, would be binding on it.`` Mr Thakur said as things had changed now, use of precious and limited water resources had to be properly managed properly before the situation takes a turn for the worse. ''We cannot afford to be complascent on this front.``

But, the minister did not specify the time-frame for the purpose and added his ministry would not be able to bring the amendment in the current session.

Mr Thakur said his ministry would accelerate work on various major and medium irrigation projects lying incomplete for several years in 20 states under the Central government-sponsored scheme of Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Project (AIBP) at the cost of Rs 500 crore.

LONG-PENDING PROJECTS: About 4,000 such projects were taken up in the country since independence and half of them had so far been completed. The foundation stone of some of the incomplete projects, a majority of which were in Bihar, UP and Karnataka, were laid several decades ago by late prime minister Jawahar Lal Nehru, he said.

As many as 48 irrigation projects, taken up under the scheme, would be completed by March-end next year and when completed would irrigate 12.8 million acres.

He said starting with Bihar, UP and West Bengal, his ministry had begun consulting MPs regarding various water-related problems in their respective states.

RIVER EROSION:

The checking of river erosion would be taken up in a big way in the Gangetic basin, he said.

For irrigation projects in the north-east states, the centre had enhanced the financial assistance under the AIBP scheme by four to one ratio thereby the states are required to fund only one-fourth part of the construction cost.


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