Interlinking of rivers, a long way to go

Interlinking of rivers, a pet idea of political leaders in the State, has come to the fore again, thanks to Lok Sabha elections. Almost every major party supports the concept and has included it in its election manifesto. However, a look at the status of projects reveals that the idea has not yet taken off due to a variety of factors.

Broadly, four projects of linking of rivers have been proposed - Athikadavu-Avinashi; Cauvery-Vaigai-Gundar; Pennaiyar-Palar and Tamiraparani-Karumeniyar-Nambiyar. The Pennaiyar-Palar link has two components – one flowing from the Sathanur dam and the other, from the Krishnagiri dam.

Except in the case of the Tamiraparani-Karumeniyar-Nambiyar link project which has seen some progress, all others remain on paper. While the Union government has rejected the proposals for the Athikadavu-Avinashi and the Cauvery-Vaigai-Gundar links, which were mooted as flood management projects, reports are under formulation for the two components of the Pennaiyar-Palar link.

In respect of the Tamiraparani-Karumeniyar-Nambiyar link, two phases have been completed and about Rs.200 crore has been spent.

Two more phases are to be taken up, for which land acquisition has to be carried out. When this was sanctioned about six years ago, the cost approved was Rs. 369 crore.

As per a tentative estimate, the figures of cost of other projects are: Athikadavu-Avinashi – Rs. 1,862 crore; Cauvery-Vaigai-Gundar – Rs. 5,166 crore and the two components of the Pennaiyar-Palar –Rs. 503 crore.

In view of the Centre’s rejection of the Athikadavu-Avinashi and the Cauvery-Vaigai-Gundar links as flood management projects (FMP), the State government has planned to seek funds for them under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP). A senior official explains that under the FMP, the Centre’s share of financial assistance would be to the tune of 75 per cent of the project cost whereas, under the AIBP, it will be just 10 per cent.

When these proposals are cleared, land acquisition for them has to be carried out under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act. This means a substantial increase in the amount of compensation to be given to land owners. As a preparatory step, social impact assessment study has to be conducted, another official explains.

There is one more proposal, for which survey is under way. This envisages the diversion of two thousand million cubic feet surplus water from the Mettur dam to the sub-basins of Sarabanga and Thirumanimuthar at a cost of Rs. 1,134 crore.

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