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Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman mentioned river-linking in the Union Budget speech and she touched upon linking Godavari and Cauvery, among others. It’s welcome news. But as a petitioner who filed public interest litigations in the Supreme Court since 1983, seeking to link rivers, I feel that it should not stop with Cauvery but it should reach Kanyakumari district interlinking Vaigai, Thamirabarani and Neyyar. The Supreme Court pronouncing the verdict on my case on February 27, 2012 said that the government can survey the feasibility. The popular demand is also that river linking should not stop with Cauvery but it should reach as far as Kanyakumari.

My proposal was Kerala’s west-flowing rivers such as Achankovil and Pamba should be diverted to the eastern side, towards Vaippar via Sengotta, Tenkasi, Kadayanallur, Puliankudi, Sankarankovil, Thiruvenkadam, Vembakottai and Sattur. It would ensure that Madurai, Ramanathapuram and Kanyakumari districts get drinking water. It is a long-term project. My proposal on interlinking Ganga, Mahanadhi, Godavari, Cauvery, Vaigai, Thamirabarani and Neyyar is also on similar lines. The Navalawala committee studied the proposal.

My proposal was Kerala’s west-flowing rivers such as Achankovil and Pamba should be diverted to the eastern side, towards Vaippar via Sengotta, Tenkasi, Kadayanallur, Puliankudi, Sankarankovil, Thiruvenkadam, Vembakottai and Sattur. It would ensure that Madurai, Ramanathapuram and Kanyakumari districts get drinking water.

The National Water Development Agency has prepared a Detailed Project Report (DPR) on linking Godavari – Krishna, Krishna – Penna, Penna – Cauvery. The project is designed to divert excess water of Godavari towards Cauvery. To achieve this, a dam is to be conducted at Icchampally in Telangana. With the help of a channel, the excess water will flow to the Nagarjuna Sagar dam. There is also an alternate plan using pipes from Janampet to draw water to the Nagarjuna Sagar.

From the Nagarjuna Sagar, a channel will be constructed to carry water to Somasila dam on Penna in Andhra Pradesh. From Somasila dam, the water will flow through Palar and to Cauvery via channels and reach Kallanai in Thanjavur district. Channels stretching over 1,200 kilometers have to be constructed for the project. It would also require 20 kilometers of underground tunnel. Tamil Nadu will have 361 kilometers of channels as part of the project. A budget outlay of Rs 60,361 crore is required to execute this project.

The National Water Development Agency has prepared a Detailed Project Report (DPR) on linking Godavari – Krishna, Krishna – Penna, Penna – Cauvery. The project is designed to divert excess water of Godavari towards Cauvery.

Detailed Project Reports are also in place to link Damanganga – Pinjal, Pardhabi – Narmadha, Godavari – Krishna, Krishna – Penna, Penna – Cauvery. The project will ensure prosperity not just to the Cauvery delta region but also to districts like Thiruvallur, Kanchipuram, Vellore, Villupuram, Kallakurichi, Thiruvannamalai, Cuddalore and Perambalur.

There are five projects on river linking. The interlinking of Ken – Betwa in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh may require Rs 44,605 crores. It will ensure irrigation of 9.08 lakh hectares. As many as 62 lakh people will get drinking water. A 103-megawatt hydro power project and a 27-megawatt solar power plant can be established. A budget allocation of Rs 4,300 has been sanctioned for 2021-22 and another Rs 1,400 crore will be sanctioned in 2022- 23 as well.

( K S Radhakrishnan is an advocate and social activist )


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