Citizens Groups pitch in for Inter-Basin Transfer of water resources

Ahead of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi to highlight critical issues facing the State, demands have swelled from citizen activists groups to press the Centre for river and rail link projects.

The rising chorus over the “urgent need” to implement river-link projects is more vocal from drought-prone areas, even as some of the backward areas have sought better rail connectivity.

In Vellore district, where the Palar has run dry for the nearly three decades and the groundwater table has dwindled to precariously low levels, activists of the Palar Protection Movement, farmers and the public have again flagged the long-pending demand for linking the Cauvery, Then Pennai and Nethravathi rivers with the Palar.

Pointing to the AIADMK’s Lok Sabha poll manifesto which promised “necessary action for the nationalisation and inter-linking of rivers,” Jamuna Thyagarajan, president of the Vellore District Palar Protection Association, urged Ms. Jayalalithaa to utilise her first meeting with Mr. Modi to stress the urgent need for river-link projects.

The Chief Minister should insist that Mr. Modi implement the Nethravathi-Palar link project, “taking advantage of the scheme already being implemented by Karnataka to bring water from the Nethravathy to Kolar district, which is close to the Palar,” Ms. Thyagarajan said.

Citing one more reason for taking up the Nethravathi-Palar link, C.K. Dhanapal, president of the Vellore District Pambar, Palar and All Reservoirs Irrigation Farmers Livelihood Rights Protection Association and district general secretary of the Tamil Nadu Farmers Association, said the groundwater table in the district had touched such a dangerously low level that one could not get water by drilling a bore well even up to a depth of 1,000 feet. With the work on for bringing Nethravathy river water to Kolar, “one has to lay channels only for about 25 km additionally to link the Palar,” Mr. Dhanapal said.

The federation of traders associations in Krishnagiri and residents welfare associations in Hosur hoped the Chief Minister would take up the long-pending demand for the 101-km Hosur-Jolarpet new rail line and the Morappur-Dharmapuri link.

Despite several industries coming up in and around Hosur, the absence of a rail link hampers the district’s industrial growth, civic groups say. They have urged the Chief Minister to press for reintroduction of the Tirupathur- Krishnagiri rail link, which had fallen into disuse in 1942. A resurvey of the line was done some years ago, and the project was estimated to cost Rs. 687.92 crore. The revised estimate has been awaiting the Planning Commission’s approval since 2011.

The Hosur-Jolarpet new rail line project also came up during the poll campaign, pointed out K. Ramalingam, president of the Hosur Small and Tiny Industries Association.

There are also demands from the Cauvery delta districts for the inter-basin transfer of surplus river waters and a new Indian water policy.

P.M. Natarajan, noted water expert and member of the Working Group of the Tamil Nadu Planning Commission, said the Supreme Court had issued a writ of Mandamus, both to the Centre and to the State governments, for constituting a special committee for inter-linking of rivers.

Urging that all Indian water resources be brought under a national water regulatory authority to facilitate inter-basin transfer of surplus river waters, he said Mr. Modi should initiate action to treat and recycle wastewater, implement the Cauvery Tribunal’s final award to ensure that Karnataka releases 192 tmcft of water a year to Tamil Nadu and harvest water up to 142 feet in the Mullaperiyar dam as per the recent Supreme Court verdict.

(With inputs from P.V. V. Murthi in Vellore and R. Arivanantham in Krishnagiri.)

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