Minister hints at autonomous status for authority

The draft Bill on the proposed State River Basin Authority is likely to recommend autonomous status for the body.

Giving a hint about the nature of the authority, Water Resources Minister P.J. Joseph told The Hindu on Friday that it would have quasi-judicial powers. The Minister said the work on the draft Bill was progressing.

Against sand-mining

Mr. Joseph said a proposal to form a river protection force to check illegal sand-mining would also be included in the Bill.

The authority would have the powers to take measures that would help in protecting and improving river systems, quality of water in waterbodies and, preventing pollution.

The river protection force would also act against encroachment on waterbodies, he said.

Mr. Joseph said the State river authority would coordinate river management that was spread over several stakeholder departments.

It would coordinate the activities of the boards and assess environmental impact of projects and their gains.

Members

The authority to be chaired by the Minister for Water Resources would have experts and representatives of voluntary organisations as members.

The formation of the State river authority is part of the efforts of the government to check pollution of rivers.

The draft proposals to be submitted soon to the Law Department also include provisions that will help in checking encroachment on riverbanks.

The authority is also expected to initiate steps for formulating action plans on afforestation, rehabilitation and resettlement, survey of river basins, embankment, pollution monitoring centres, sewage treatment plants, provision of septic tanks, and installation of slaughter houses.

Asked about the proposed measures to address the increasing demand for drinking water in Kochi city, the Minister pointed out directives had been given to address the rising cases of water theft. He said stringent action would be taken against violators.

However, Mr. Joseph was evasive when asked about the proposed plans to meet the acute water scarcity at many areas in Kochi, especially after the closure of wells from where water was drawn for supply in apartments and other residential areas following complaints of contamination.

He said the water authority should certify the sources from where water was collected for supply in tanker lorries.

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