Amid the friction between Tamil Nadu and Kerala over the Mullaperiyar dam issue, former President A P J Abdul Kalam on Wednesday said the country cannot afford a civil war on water and suggested deployment of armed forces to maintain rivers and dams.

“Water cannot be a (source of) conflict in India. India cannot afford a civil war on water... Indian rivers and dams have to be operated and maintained by army, navy or other armed forces for equitable distribution,” he said after inaugurating a one—day conference “Agricon 2011” organised by CII here.

The row over the Mullaperiyar dam has intensified in recent days leading to tension between the two neighbours, resulting in sporadic violence.

The Supreme Court has yesterday rapped both the states for adding fuel to the fire by their statements and asked them to show “sanity and sensitivity“.

Kerala has mounted pressure on the Centre for a new dam citing safety concerns while Tamil Nadu has strongly opposed it saying the existing structure was safe.

Mr. Kalam said chief ministers of Tamil Nadu and Kerala should reach for an amicable solution to the issue. “It is not wise to discuss the issue through media,” he cautioned.

Strongly batting for interlinking of rivers, he said the country was “not prepared” to face natural disasters caused by floods.

“India needs visionaries to launch a river linking project which may have to be completed in two decades and not a five year plan which will fit into politics...,” he said.

Later talking to reporters, he suggested a National Water Grid Management scheme which could be one of the mechanisms to resolve inter-state disputes.

“Like national highways and the Central Power Grid, my suggestion is a National Water Grid Management (to resolve water disputes)...,” he said.