Gujarat govt scraps Par Tapi Narmada river link project; Gujarat CM makes announcement

Surat: The Government of Gujarat today announced cancellation of proposed Par – Tapi – Narmada river link project in South Gujarat.

The announcement was made by Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel himself in a press conference in Surat this afternoon.

The Chief Minister in his short briefing said – “Due to misunderstanding created among tribals, they are upset with the project. The central govt announces any project, then related state govt approval only proceeds. Regarding this project, the Gujarat govt has granted no approval to the project and Gujarat govt has decided not to go ahead with the project. A meeting was held in the presence of Amitbhai Shah, Nirmala Sitaraman, Gajendrasinh Shekhwat, tribal ministers and MLAs from Gujarat, regarding this project and agreement had arrived to cancel the project. Thus, to give respect to feelings of tribal people, this project is declared scrapped.”

The Chief Minister didn’t take questions, but when asked only said – “sometimes in some circumstances, the present situation is important and if the present situation is such that, even what is good is refused to be believed, the government works for the good of people, and the decision has been taken to scrap the project.”

It’s worth noting that the project was earlier declared suspended after local protests led by Congress leaders. The Proposed project is about diversion and utilization of surplus flood water, storage of water for use during the entire year, hydro power generation and more. The project was planned in 1980s and the feasibility report was prepared in 1990s by then governments in the Centre. Dr. Manmohan Singh led government in the Centre had hosted MoU signing event in which the Centre, the Gujarat and the Maharashtra governments had signed MoU for making of DPR of this project. DeshGujarat

Why is it appalling to watch Congress opposing the Par – Tapi – Narmada project?

It was in the 1980s under the rule of the Congress government at the centre that the entire project of the National Perspective Plan (NPP) was initiated. The then Ministry of Irrigation in August 1980 designed the project for water resources development through the inter-basin transfer of water, for transferring water from water surplus basins to water-deficit basins. Under the NPP, the National Water Development Agency identified 30 links – 16 under the Peninsular Component & 14 under the Himalayan Component – for the preparation of Feasibility Reports. Later in 1990, the pre-feasibility report and feasibility report of the project were prepared.

(Feasibility reports of 3 links under the peninsular components namely, Par-Tapi-Narmada, Pamba-Achankovil-Vaippar link, and Ken-Betwa link completed)

While addressing the consultative committee meeting on 4th August 2005 in New Delhi, the then UPA Minister of Water Resources and Congress leader Priyaranjan Dasmunshi while emphasizing on the importance of linking rivers stated:

“India’s prosperity would depend on how best we would be able to manage the water resources to meet ever-expanding demands. For the inter-basin water transfer proposals to see the light, what is required is a thorough understanding of the issues, mutual cooperation to tackle them, and political will to overcome the hurdles.”

In the same meeting, the then Minister of State for Water Resources and Congress leader Jayprakash Narayan said:

‘Government has laid stress on interlinking of rivers and UPA Government’s priority on linking of peninsular rivers is being done in a consultative manner

On May 3, 2010, the then Congress-led UPA government signed an agreement for this project, in which the then Union Minister for Water Resources and the current treasurer of the Congress party, Pawan Kumar Bansal signed the agreement on the behalf of the centre. The then Congress Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Vilas Rao Deshmukh signed the agreement on behalf of the Maharashtra state government. The agreement signed in the presence of the then Prime Minister of India and Congress leader, Dr. Manmohan Singh was aimed at drafting the detailed project report of the Par-Tapi-Narmada link project. Dr. Singh as the Prime Minister extended congratulations to both the CMs and said that the development of water resources in an integrated manner and adoption of various short-term and long-term measures is the need of the hour. Water resources projects including inter-basin water transfer play an important role in mitigating imbalances of water availability and likely adverse impacts of climate change. He expressed his happiness that the Governments of Maharashtra and Gujarat have joined hands for the effective utilization of the waters of the west-flowing rivers. The project of interlinking rivers will bring immense benefits to the entire nation and also augment the availability of water for various uses, he hoped.

Following this, the task of drafting the Detailed Project Report (DPR) started under the UPA regime. As per the estimate given in the financial year of 2014-15, the cost of the entire project was INR 10,211.24 crore.

In 2015, NCP MLA Chagan Bhujbal rushed into the well during the Maharashtra Vidhan Sabha session alleging that 133 TMC water of Damaganga River which is Maharashtra’s share is given to Gujarat and opposed the Par-Tapi-Narmada and Pinjal Damanganga project. Bhujbal’s son Pankaj, CPM’s Jiva Pandu Gavit, and INC’s Amit Chavhan too came in support of Bhujbal by displaying banners and shouting slogans. Shiv Sena MLA Gulabrao Patil said that water going to Gujarat is a matter of concern for north Maharashtra. Replying to these allegations, the then Water Resource Minister, Girish Mahajan said that till now there has been no agreement signed regarding water distribution and the final draft of DPR is yet to come.

Later in July 2015, when the Union Ministry of Water Resources arranged a meeting, the Maharashtra state minister for water resources, Vijay Shivtare asked to release 16.5 TMC of water from Gujarat’s Ukai dam for the Khandesh region of Maharashtra. Shivtare stated that “Maharashtra is going to get 28.5 TMC water from Par-Tapi-Narmada link project, while 16.5 TMC water will flow in the ocean as stated by Gujarat and is thus being demanded by Gujarat. In return, we demand that the same amount of water should be given to Maharashtra’s Khandesh region from Gujarat’s Ukai dam”. Maharashtra’s representative in the meeting also mentioned certain important changes in the Pinjal Damanganga project due to which the water requirements of Mumbai will be fulfilled till 2050.

The projects of linking rivers are inter-state in nature, but as it’s a complicated task of achieving understanding between two states on the distribution of river water, no such project has been successful to date. During the recent speech by the Union Finance Minister, while presenting the budget in the Parliament, it was stated: Draft DPRs of five river links, namely Damanganga-Pinjal, Par-Tapi- Narmada, Godavari-Krishna, Krishna-Pennar, and Pennar-Cauvery have been finalized. Once a consensus is reached among the beneficiary states, the Centre will provide implementation support.

Even after the pre-feasibility report, feasibility report, MOU, and DPR are done, further tasks for starting the project are obtaining multiple clearances from the Environment Department, Tribal Welfare Department, Forest Department, techno-economic clearance from the advisors of the Irrigation Department, the permission of flood control, Ministry of Water Resources, Investment Clearance and then the nod of the different state governments. Further, the major permission is to be obtained from the local population who will be affected. Last but not least is the legal battle in the Supreme Court if the situation of conflict arises. Thus, it is a humongous task to implement the project of linking rivers, which takes lots of time to come to the ground. Despite that, due to political compulsions and party high command order, Congress has started agitation against the Par-Tapi-Narmada link project in the south Gujarat region; as the one who will successfully lead the agitation and emerge as a strong political figure amongst the masses will get Congress ticket to contest in the upcoming Gujarat Vidhan Sabha elections. Noteworthy is that BJP won the by-elections of Kaparada and Dang with a large difference.

If the concern regarding the opposition to the project is the loss of the land of the tribal, loss of habitat of the flora and fauna, or opposing land acquisition of the farmers, then this was the prerequisite of the entire concept when it was first formulated in 1982 during the tenure of Congress government at the centre. It was clear that these things are bound to happen when the pre-feasibility report, feasibility report, and DPR were drafted. Dr. Manmohan Singh, Pawan Kumar Bansal, Ashok Chavhan, and other Congress leaders too were aware of these facts and went further with the idea. Former MPs of INC from Gujarat Late. Urmilaben Patel and Brahmkumar Bhatt used to regularly ask questions in the Parliament related to the progress of the project.

Congress takes pride and terms the construction of the dams of Gujarat during its tenure as its legacy. INC spokesperson taunts BJP about not constructing a single dam, however, the construction of such dams involves damage to the flora and fauna along with relocating people. The term is hypocrisy, political opportunism, or disorientation, but the party who prepared the blueprint of the entire project is today opposing the same project when in opposition, which is ridiculous to watch.

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