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Brahmaputra Board revamp likely soon

By Kalyan Barooah

NEW DELHI, Oct 11 - The long-awaited move to revamp the defunct Brahmaputra Board is likely to become a reality soon, with the Centre readying a note to convert the board into a basin-level authority.

The move will also mark the formal dumping of the UPA-sponsored proposal to set up the ambitious North East Water Resources Authority (NEWRA), which failed to take off owing to stiff opposition of Arunachal Pradesh. The proposal was a pet project of the then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, who pushed hard for setting up such an authority.

After the NDA came to power in Delhi, the Central Government constituted a nodal group to look into all aspects to restructure the Brahmaputra Board as a basin-level authority. The nodal group has since submitted its report on restructuring of the Brahmaputra Board. The proposal to restructure the board as a basin-level body is currently being drafted by the Centre, sources said.

The move by the Centre followed after pressure from the northeastern states, mainly Assam, to act fast on the long-pending proposal to restructure the Brahmaputra Board. The then Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had on several occasions raised the issue with the Centre. Assam also pressed the Centre to either act on the proposal to set up the NEWRA that has become a nonstarter or expedite the long-pending move to revamp the board by passing the Brahmaputra Board Amendment Bill.

Sources in the Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR) admitted that the working of the Brahmaputra Board has come under a lot of criticism from the northeastern states. The Bill to amend the Brahmaputra Board Act has been revived and the idea is to make the board more responsive and function better.

The budgetary allocation for the Brahmaputra Board was also hiked from Rs 56 crore to Rs 90 crore. The funds have been earmarked for the Majuli Island Protection Project and flood management works, sources added.

The northeastern region with its geographical area of 26.52 million hectares has a combined water resources potential of (Brahmaputra and Barak River) 586 BMC, which is among the highest of all river basins in the country.

The original 2004 proposal to revamp the Brahmaputra Board, which has been lying in the cold storage, envisages redefining and widening the objective of the board, so as to include integrated water resources development involving irrigation, flood management and hydropower generation. The draft note prepared by the MoWR was circulated among different ministries and based on such inter-ministerial consultations, a Bill was to be introduced during the Monsoon Session of the Parliament last year seeking amendment of the existing Act.

Meanwhile, despite the raging controversy over construction of mega dams in the Northeast, the Brahmaputra Board has completed preparation of a detailed project report (DPR) on several ventures. Sources said that DPRs were completed for five projects � Siang single stage dam and Subansiri single stage dam in Arunachal Pradesh, Tipaimukh dam in Manipur, Pagladiya dam in Assam and Bhairabi dam in Mizoram.

The Pagladiya Dam Project is under execution by the Brahmaputra Board, while the Siang and Subansiri dam projects have been handed over to the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) for execution.

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Brahmaputra Board revamp likely soon

NEW DELHI, Oct 11 - The long-awaited move to revamp the defunct Brahmaputra Board is likely to become a reality soon, with the Centre readying a note to convert the board into a basin-level authority.

The move will also mark the formal dumping of the UPA-sponsored proposal to set up the ambitious North East Water Resources Authority (NEWRA), which failed to take off owing to stiff opposition of Arunachal Pradesh. The proposal was a pet project of the then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, who pushed hard for setting up such an authority.

After the NDA came to power in Delhi, the Central Government constituted a nodal group to look into all aspects to restructure the Brahmaputra Board as a basin-level authority. The nodal group has since submitted its report on restructuring of the Brahmaputra Board. The proposal to restructure the board as a basin-level body is currently being drafted by the Centre, sources said.

The move by the Centre followed after pressure from the northeastern states, mainly Assam, to act fast on the long-pending proposal to restructure the Brahmaputra Board. The then Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had on several occasions raised the issue with the Centre. Assam also pressed the Centre to either act on the proposal to set up the NEWRA that has become a nonstarter or expedite the long-pending move to revamp the board by passing the Brahmaputra Board Amendment Bill.

Sources in the Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR) admitted that the working of the Brahmaputra Board has come under a lot of criticism from the northeastern states. The Bill to amend the Brahmaputra Board Act has been revived and the idea is to make the board more responsive and function better.

The budgetary allocation for the Brahmaputra Board was also hiked from Rs 56 crore to Rs 90 crore. The funds have been earmarked for the Majuli Island Protection Project and flood management works, sources added.

The northeastern region with its geographical area of 26.52 million hectares has a combined water resources potential of (Brahmaputra and Barak River) 586 BMC, which is among the highest of all river basins in the country.

The original 2004 proposal to revamp the Brahmaputra Board, which has been lying in the cold storage, envisages redefining and widening the objective of the board, so as to include integrated water resources development involving irrigation, flood management and hydropower generation. The draft note prepared by the MoWR was circulated among different ministries and based on such inter-ministerial consultations, a Bill was to be introduced during the Monsoon Session of the Parliament last year seeking amendment of the existing Act.

Meanwhile, despite the raging controversy over construction of mega dams in the Northeast, the Brahmaputra Board has completed preparation of a detailed project report (DPR) on several ventures. Sources said that DPRs were completed for five projects � Siang single stage dam and Subansiri single stage dam in Arunachal Pradesh, Tipaimukh dam in Manipur, Pagladiya dam in Assam and Bhairabi dam in Mizoram.

The Pagladiya Dam Project is under execution by the Brahmaputra Board, while the Siang and Subansiri dam projects have been handed over to the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) for execution.