Suresh Prabhu has been appointed the chairman of the Task Force to look into the interlinking of rivers - by far the most challenging project in the realm of public works by the Indian Government in its five odd decades of existence. Though grandiose in idea, it is not one that enjoys unstinted support. A chat with the Chairman to know more about various aspects of the project.
The states already have considerable hesitation in sharing water. Do you think they are going to agree to share water on such a large scale?
This is not a problem of disputes. Never before have the states been spoken to about interlinking of rivers. I am speaking to all the states bilaterally and of course no one has any problem as they are all going to benefit out of it. We are confident of finding solutions to the issue.
But states like Orissa and Andhra Pradesh are on record saying they do not have surplus water. How are you going to persuade states like these?
I am speaking all the chief ministers and states. I am sure they will all be able to arrive at a satisfactory position over sharing of river waters.
What is the progress in the project by now?
As you know, this is a long term project. It started way back in 1982, when the National Water Development Agency, or NWDA was set up. While it initially started looking into the feasibility of linking up the peninsular rivers, in 1990 it was also asked to look into the Himalayan Rivers Development Component. NWDA has been working for over two decades to study the optimum utilisation of water resources by linking up various rivers.
NWDA has been carrying out detailed studies of the quantum of water in various rivers in our country and working where the inter basin transfer of water would be beneficial. It has also been preparing feasibility reports about the interlinking in each individual case under consideration.
Why are these NWDA project reports not available for the public?
That is not correct. The reports are available. However not all the studies are complete, most are still underway. Also the reports are highly technical and will not be of interest to the public at large.