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Centre yet to revamp Brahmaputra Board

By Kalyan Barooah

NEW DELHI, Aug 31 � Proposed way back in 2004, but even after the lapse of seven years, there is no sign of the Centre reviving its plan to restructure the Brahmaputra Board. The draft Cabinet note is under preparation since last year for approval of the Ministry of Law and Justice.

The Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR) had in October 2004, proposed to restructure the board to widen its objectives and resolve the problem of staff shortages. A Brahmaputra Board Amendment Bill was proposed to be introduced in the Parliament during the Monsoon session last year. But the Centre failed to get its acts together.

The primary aim of the restructuring plan was to redefine and widen the scope of the Brahmaputra Board to ensure that it handed integrated water resources development involving irrigation, flood management, generation of hydropower among other objectives.

�It is surprising to note that the proposal to restructure the Board, mooted in October 2004, is yet to take the first step in its legislative journey,� remarked the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee�s latest report on Brahmaputra Board, which was tabled on Tuesday.

The committee is constrained to note that the proposal to restructure the Brahmaputra Board has not so far made much headway, even after the lapse of about seven year, the report said.

In its action taken reply, the MoWR has informed that the Bill is yet to be introduced in the Parliament. A draft Cabinet note was prepared and circulated to concerned ministries and State governments. Based on the comments received, �The note is being modified before sending it to the Ministry of Law and Justice and thereafter the approval of the Cabinet would be obtained.�

It has been suggested that the board should endeavour to raise its own resources. Considering the importance and necessity of effective monitoring mechanism, the board is expected to evolve suitable procedural guidelines and time schedule regarding administrative approval, technical sanction and tendering process to ensure that funds are utilised within the stipulated time.

A mechanism was stated to have been developed within the Brahmaputra Board to avoid delay in according �administrative approval, technical sanction and tendering process�, the Parliamentary Panel was told.

Another organisation hit by staff shortage is North Eastern Hydraulic and Allied Research Institute (NEHARI), which manages its affair with the funds from the Centre and also generates its own resources. Under the MoWR, NEHARI�s earnings have declined drastically to Rs 6.70 lakh (2008-2009) from Rs 49.78 lakh in 2002-2003. It was traced directly to staff shortages, which came down to 29 from 45.

It was suggested that Brahmaputra Board needs to expedite the process of providing adequate staff to NEHARI at the earliest and the body should also take steps to augment its earnings, the report said.

Set up in 1980 under an Act of the Parliament the Brahmaputra Board Act, the body was tasked with the job of planning and integrated implementation of flood and erosion control measures in Brahmaputra and Barak valleys. But later, parts of north eastern States and West Bengal were also added to the jurisdiction of the board.

It has so far prepared 44 master plans, which have been approved by the Centre and have been sent to the States for implementation. In addition, seven master plans are under various stages of preparation and six are under survey and investigation, taking the total to 57.

But there is a catch, the master plans have been partially implemented. The MoWR has pointed out that water being a State subject, flood control, anti-erosion and flood proofing works are planned, implemented and funded by the State governments according to their own priorities.

For Flood Management Programme, the Centre has during XI Plan sanctioned Rs 8000 crore as Central assistance to States to undertake flood management and anti-erosion works.

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Centre yet to revamp Brahmaputra Board

NEW DELHI, Aug 31 � Proposed way back in 2004, but even after the lapse of seven years, there is no sign of the Centre reviving its plan to restructure the Brahmaputra Board. The draft Cabinet note is under preparation since last year for approval of the Ministry of Law and Justice.

The Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR) had in October 2004, proposed to restructure the board to widen its objectives and resolve the problem of staff shortages. A Brahmaputra Board Amendment Bill was proposed to be introduced in the Parliament during the Monsoon session last year. But the Centre failed to get its acts together.

The primary aim of the restructuring plan was to redefine and widen the scope of the Brahmaputra Board to ensure that it handed integrated water resources development involving irrigation, flood management, generation of hydropower among other objectives.

�It is surprising to note that the proposal to restructure the Board, mooted in October 2004, is yet to take the first step in its legislative journey,� remarked the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee�s latest report on Brahmaputra Board, which was tabled on Tuesday.

The committee is constrained to note that the proposal to restructure the Brahmaputra Board has not so far made much headway, even after the lapse of about seven year, the report said.

In its action taken reply, the MoWR has informed that the Bill is yet to be introduced in the Parliament. A draft Cabinet note was prepared and circulated to concerned ministries and State governments. Based on the comments received, �The note is being modified before sending it to the Ministry of Law and Justice and thereafter the approval of the Cabinet would be obtained.�

It has been suggested that the board should endeavour to raise its own resources. Considering the importance and necessity of effective monitoring mechanism, the board is expected to evolve suitable procedural guidelines and time schedule regarding administrative approval, technical sanction and tendering process to ensure that funds are utilised within the stipulated time.

A mechanism was stated to have been developed within the Brahmaputra Board to avoid delay in according �administrative approval, technical sanction and tendering process�, the Parliamentary Panel was told.

Another organisation hit by staff shortage is North Eastern Hydraulic and Allied Research Institute (NEHARI), which manages its affair with the funds from the Centre and also generates its own resources. Under the MoWR, NEHARI�s earnings have declined drastically to Rs 6.70 lakh (2008-2009) from Rs 49.78 lakh in 2002-2003. It was traced directly to staff shortages, which came down to 29 from 45.

It was suggested that Brahmaputra Board needs to expedite the process of providing adequate staff to NEHARI at the earliest and the body should also take steps to augment its earnings, the report said.

Set up in 1980 under an Act of the Parliament the Brahmaputra Board Act, the body was tasked with the job of planning and integrated implementation of flood and erosion control measures in Brahmaputra and Barak valleys. But later, parts of north eastern States and West Bengal were also added to the jurisdiction of the board.

It has so far prepared 44 master plans, which have been approved by the Centre and have been sent to the States for implementation. In addition, seven master plans are under various stages of preparation and six are under survey and investigation, taking the total to 57.

But there is a catch, the master plans have been partially implemented. The MoWR has pointed out that water being a State subject, flood control, anti-erosion and flood proofing works are planned, implemented and funded by the State governments according to their own priorities.

For Flood Management Programme, the Centre has during XI Plan sanctioned Rs 8000 crore as Central assistance to States to undertake flood management and anti-erosion works.