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CM for course correction in Water Policy

By Spl CORRESPONDENT

NEW DELHI, Dec 28 � Taking note of the massive public resentment over unabated construction of dams in the neighbouring State, Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi on Friday called for major course correction in the proposed National Water Policy, asking the Centre to make study of the likely downstream impact in the riparian states mandatory.

The Chief Minister�s word of caution came a day after Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister, Nabam Tuki slammed both Centre and Assam Government for their failure to contain the agitation against the 2000 MW Subansiri Lower Hydro Power Project.

The sixth meeting of the National Water Resources Council chaired by the Prime Minister and attended by Water Resources Minister, Harish Rawat, besides the Chief Ministers and top water resources experts, was convened to deliberate on the proposed National Water Policy.

Chief Minister Gogoi though used the occasion to flag several contentious issues including the construction of hydro power projects in upper reaches of Brahmaputra river without any consultation with lower riparian states concerning the downstream impact and flood mitigation. The fact that the State has to bear the brunt of the anti-dam agitation, may have provoked him to push for major changes.

While deciding on any project involving the use of multi-state river waters, all the riparian states should be mandatorily consulted, while assessing the impact on the environment, rehabilitation measures, agriculture, aquatic life, flora and fauna and while formulating environmental impact assessment and ameliorative measures, the Chief Minister said.

�In addition to the interdisciplinary approach suggested in the policy, we also recommend inclusion of a mandatory study of the likely downstream impact in the down-stream riparian states resulting from the future water resource and hydro-electric projects as a part of project preparation and approvals. We support the view that all hydropower schemes in the North-east should be of the nature of multipurpose projects that include downstream and upstream flood moderation measures,� the Chief Minister said.

Similarly the interests of all riparian states, upper as well as lower, should be equally recognised, while deciding on the benefit from such schemes. In the case of hydro-electric dams, this should also be suitably reflected in allocation of free and priced electricity to the states affected. Special financial assistance packages should be provided by the Central Government to the affected states for agreed measures to mitigate the impact of such hydro-electric schemes, Gogoi suggested.

�I may also mention that Brahmaputra is an international river with its basin including China, India, Bhutan and Bangladesh. As a result, in order to maintain the flow of water in this river, so that it can sustain the environment and water balance in the North East, there would be a need to arrive at understanding with all the riparian countries. We need to encourage international cooperation to avoid any measures that are detrimental to the sustainability of the Brahmaputra,� he suggested.

The recommendation obviously has to do with the reports of China trying to divert the Brahmaputra in Tibet Autonomous Region, from where it originates.

He pointed out that National Water Policy 2002 clearly establishes primacy of flood mitigation measures in such projects. �We strongly urge that this focus be maintained in the proposed water policy also,� the Chief Minister said.

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CM for course correction in Water Policy

NEW DELHI, Dec 28 � Taking note of the massive public resentment over unabated construction of dams in the neighbouring State, Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi on Friday called for major course correction in the proposed National Water Policy, asking the Centre to make study of the likely downstream impact in the riparian states mandatory.

The Chief Minister�s word of caution came a day after Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister, Nabam Tuki slammed both Centre and Assam Government for their failure to contain the agitation against the 2000 MW Subansiri Lower Hydro Power Project.

The sixth meeting of the National Water Resources Council chaired by the Prime Minister and attended by Water Resources Minister, Harish Rawat, besides the Chief Ministers and top water resources experts, was convened to deliberate on the proposed National Water Policy.

Chief Minister Gogoi though used the occasion to flag several contentious issues including the construction of hydro power projects in upper reaches of Brahmaputra river without any consultation with lower riparian states concerning the downstream impact and flood mitigation. The fact that the State has to bear the brunt of the anti-dam agitation, may have provoked him to push for major changes.

While deciding on any project involving the use of multi-state river waters, all the riparian states should be mandatorily consulted, while assessing the impact on the environment, rehabilitation measures, agriculture, aquatic life, flora and fauna and while formulating environmental impact assessment and ameliorative measures, the Chief Minister said.

�In addition to the interdisciplinary approach suggested in the policy, we also recommend inclusion of a mandatory study of the likely downstream impact in the down-stream riparian states resulting from the future water resource and hydro-electric projects as a part of project preparation and approvals. We support the view that all hydropower schemes in the North-east should be of the nature of multipurpose projects that include downstream and upstream flood moderation measures,� the Chief Minister said.

Similarly the interests of all riparian states, upper as well as lower, should be equally recognised, while deciding on the benefit from such schemes. In the case of hydro-electric dams, this should also be suitably reflected in allocation of free and priced electricity to the states affected. Special financial assistance packages should be provided by the Central Government to the affected states for agreed measures to mitigate the impact of such hydro-electric schemes, Gogoi suggested.

�I may also mention that Brahmaputra is an international river with its basin including China, India, Bhutan and Bangladesh. As a result, in order to maintain the flow of water in this river, so that it can sustain the environment and water balance in the North East, there would be a need to arrive at understanding with all the riparian countries. We need to encourage international cooperation to avoid any measures that are detrimental to the sustainability of the Brahmaputra,� he suggested.

The recommendation obviously has to do with the reports of China trying to divert the Brahmaputra in Tibet Autonomous Region, from where it originates.

He pointed out that National Water Policy 2002 clearly establishes primacy of flood mitigation measures in such projects. �We strongly urge that this focus be maintained in the proposed water policy also,� the Chief Minister said.