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Is Centre selling Assam’s right over water down the river?

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  8 Feb 2015 12:00 AM GMT

According to sources, works for the linking of Mas, Sonkosh, Tista and the Ganga (MSTG) have already started. The Centre, sources said, has already sent its pre–feasibility report to the Assam Water Resources Department. As though everything is a hush–hush, political parties and various organizations of the state are not aware of such a move.

By our Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, February 7: Is the Centre selling Assam’s right over its water resources down the river? This question, as and when asked, always jangles the nerves of the people of the state, and that seems to be not for nothing.

A three–day meeting of the irrigation and water resources ministers of the states were held on Jalamanthan (churning water) at Bigyan Bhavan in New Delhi from November 20 to 22, 2014. The issue of linking 37 rivers of the country was discussed on November 21 during the meet. According to reports, the mega river–linking projects have three prime segments – linking the South Indian rivers, linking the Himalayan rivers and inter–state river linking. The rivers of Assam set for river–linking are the Brahmaputra and some of its tributaries – Mas, Sonkosh, Tista and the Ganga; and the Jogigopa, Tista and Farakka. The is set to be the biggest of all the proposed river–linking projects.

According to sources, works for the linking of Mas, Sonkosh, Tista and the Ganga (MSTG) have already started. According to sources, the Centre has already sent its pre–feasibility report to the Assam Water Resources Department. As though everything is a hush–hush, political parties and various organizations of the state are not aware of such a move.

In 1999, the then NDA Government at the Centre led by Atal Behari Vajpayee had also initiated this project, but had to be stalled following stiff opposition from the people. An apprehensive UPA completed its two terms at the Centre without daring to start the project. However, the current rendra Modi–led government at the Centre resumed the works of the stalled project within seven months of coming to power. According to sources, Modi has his slogan right that ‘the river–linking project will quench the thirst of the people in the dry season and save them from floods in the rainy season’.

However, environmental organizations and green activists speak otherwise. They apprehend that since floods are seen in the Ganges Valley during the rainy season, waters from the Assam rivers may be drained out from the state only during the dry season when the state too badly feels scarcity of water, if the river–linking projects becomes a reality. The quantum of water that flows through the state rivers during the dry season is very essential for irrigation projects in the state that has, so far, only five per cent of the cultivable lands irrigated. In the event of 100 per cent irrigation in the state, the state may run short of water to run its irrigation projects during the dry season, they feel.

“What sounds reasoble is that all cultivable lands in Assam should be brought under irrigation projects first before linking the rivers of the state so as to ascertain if Assam has any surplus water or not,” they said, and questioned: “Without ascertaining the quantum of water available during the winter in Assam, how come the Centre presume that Assam has surplus water and that should be drained out of the state?”

It may be mentioned that the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and the AJYCP have all along been opposing the river–linking project. Of late, the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samity (KMSS) also joined the bandwagon of opposition to the project.

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