Will the constitution of a task force by the Central government for expediting linking of rivers work in Tamil Nadu?
Mired in politics, the Tamiraparani, Karumeniyar and Nambiyar river linking project in Tirunelveli and Tuticorin districts is slowly gaining momentum after the Madras High Court intervened. The objective is to tap the 13 TMC of surplus water flowing into the sea by diverting it to the drought-prone areas.
Surprisingly, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) gave the Environment Clearance (EC) to the project only in February 2015, even though half the work was completed by mid-2011, when the DMK government was in power.
According to former MLA of Radhapuram, Appavoo, the canal work between Vellanguli–Thudiur–Moolakaraipatti was completed for 38.9 km on two stretches by the time the present AIADMK regime came to power in May 2011.
“Despite sanctioning of about Rs 100 crore in every budget since 2011-12 for river linkage, work in Tamiraparani basin, which will benefit five taluks in the two districts, was not taken up,” says Mr. Appavoo, who took to the legal route in public interest.
PWD sources in the two districts admit that the funds were basically refunded. That the project had no environmental clearance came to their rescue for a while. But after the High Court strictures, public hearings were held only a few months ago at the two district collectorates, say official sources, adding that the Water Resources Organisation (WRO) wing officials of the PWD had camped in New Delhi to “successfully” obtain the environment clearance.
While granting clearance after a thorough scrutiny, the MoEF’s expert appraisal committee observed that only the canal system for diversion of water was being proposed to be constructed to provide water for irrigation and drinking water facilities. However, the committee granted clearance with a condition that commitments made at the public hearing should be fully fulfilled by the government.
Thanks to the project, no family will be losing homestead, but about 5,150 families are likely to lose land. A rehabilitation plan has been formulated in line with the norms of ‘Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettelement Act, 2013’. The total cost of the environment management plan, including rehabilitation and resettlement, has been worked out to Rs. 230.36 crore.
Meanwhile, the delay has pushed the project cost up by nearly Rs. 600 crore, say official sources. While the original cost was Rs. 369 crore, it shot up to Rs. 959 crore now, they add.
In this budget, the State government sanctioned Rs. 253.50 crore for two river linkage projects, including this project. The State government may look to the Centre for more funding, but the question remains if it has the political will to complete it.