: Water Resources Minister P.J. Joseph has demanded more Central funds under the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) to tackle drought in the State.

Speaking at a national seminar of Ministers of Water Resources convened by the Union Ministry of Water Resources in New Delhi on Thursday, Mr. Joseph said Kerala had received 25 per cent deficient monsoon, resulting in drastic fall in the water level in all 44 rivers in the State. This was at a time when a majority of the State’s drinking water projects were linked to rivers. Pumping operations had been hit severely and the State was trying to store water for supply by constructing temporary barrages. Permanent check-dams would help solve the issue in a long-term perspective, he said.

On the other had, a majority of the 40 lakh-plus wells in the State had very little water and bore-wells were becoming imperative. In rural areas, only 17.72 per cent areas received treated water. The State’s aim was to raise this to at least 30 per cent, the Minister said, pointing out that this would be possible only if there was Central assistance.

Stating that the NRDWP share for Kerala had to be hiked to Rs.300 crore from the present Rs.168 crore, Mr. Joseph said desalination projects had be to expanded. This would require at least Rs.800 crore. Projects costing Rs.500 crore had been drawn up to augment and modernise existing water supply schemes while water safety and conservation projects costing Rs.50 crore were essential.