Kerala wants river-linking project dropped

By IANS, New Delhi: Kerala has asked the central government to drop a river linking project in south India as it would hamper drinking water and irrigation facilities required for the southern parts of Kerala.

“The proposed project to link Pamba-Achankovil-Vypar rivers in the south would affect Kerala adversely in many ways,” Francis George, MP from Kerala’s Idukki district, told the Lok Sabha Monday.

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The proposed project is to divert waters from Achankovil and Pamba rivers in Kerala to Tamil Nadu’s Vypar River.

“The project would hamper the drinking water and irrigation facilities required for millions of people living in the down stream part of these rivers. It will also affect the environmental balance of the Vembanad Lake and (low lying area) Kuttanad, as these rivers drain into these eco systems,” the MP pointed out.

He added that the state had planned two major hydro-projects on these rivers.

“So the project should be dropped,” stressed George, who belongs to Kerala Congress-Joseph.

Reacting to the MP’s demand, Union Water Resources Minister Saiffudin Soz assured that the Centre would go ahead with the project only after receiving the “mutual consent” of the states involved.

George also criticised the “obstinate and uncharitable stand” taken by neighbouring Tamil Nadu in the controversial Mullapperiyar dam issue.

Kerala and Tamil Nadu have been on a standoff over the heightening of the more than a century-old dam, with the former objecting to it saying that the dam was in a dangerous condition. The state has offered to construct a new dam in the Periyar River for Tamil Nadu.

Referring to it as a “life and death issue” for the people of Kerala, George said: “Kerala has been giving all the water from the Mullapperiyar reservoir to Tamil Nadu for the last 110 years almost free, where as Tamil Nadu has been using the water for irrigation and generating electricity worth over Rs. 2.5 billion.

“If this water could be available to the Idukki reservoir, Kerala can generate enough electricity to avoid power cuts and load shedding and save billions of rupees it is paying the central allocation of power,” he said during a discussion on the Finance Bill.

The MP said Kerala has been giving water to its neighbour from the Prambikulam-Aliyar project, Siruvani project and from the Neyyar dam.

“Kerala has been very generous and considerate to the needs of our Tamil Nadu brethren and we expect the same from them,” George said.

The MP also sought Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s help in resolving the water disputes between the two states.