River interlinking gets SC approval

Project will bring immeasurable benefits to people, says a 3-judge Bench

The NDA government’s ambitious project on interlinking of rivers in the country got the Supreme Court’s nod which on Monday appointed a high-powered committee to oversee its effective implementation in a time-bound manner.

A 3-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia said that the project would bring “immeasurable” benefits to the people.

“We not only express a pious hope of speedy implementation but also do hereby issue a mandamus to the central and the state governments concerned to comply with the directions contained in this judgment effectively and expeditiously and without default.”

“This is a matter of national benefit and progress. We see no reason why any state should lag behind in contributing its bit to bring the Inter-linking river programme to a success, thus saving the people living in drought-prone zones from hunger and people living in flood- prone areas from the destruction caused by floods,” the bench said.

The Bench, also comprising Justices A K Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar, directed the centre to forthwith constitute a committee to be called a “Special Committee for Inter-linking of Rivers” consisting of representatives of various government departments, ministries, experts and social activists to chart out the plan to execute the project.

The committee would include members from Union Minister of Water Resources, its secretary, Secretary of Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) and four expert members one each appointed by Water Resources Ministry, Finance Ministry, Planning Commission and MoEF.

“This project, when it becomes a reality, will provide immeasurable benefits.  We see no reason as to why the governments should not take appropriate and timely interest in the execution of this project, particularly when, in the various affidavits filed by the central and the state governments, it has been affirmed that the governments are very keen to implement this project with great sincerity and effectiveness,” the court said.

The Atal Bihari Vajpayee led NDA government had in October, 2002 formed a task force to get the project going against the backdrop of the acute drought. The project when mooted was expected to cost around Rs 5 lakh crore.

The court said that there is “unanimity between all concerned authorities” on the implementation of river linking.

Justice Kumar, writing the verdict, said, “There shall be greater growth in agricultural and allied sectors, prosperity and stimulus to the economy potentially causing increase in per capita income, in addition to the short and long term benefits likely to accrue by such implementation. These would accrue if the expert recommendations are implemented properly and within a time frame.”

The court noted that states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu have fully supported the concept. Madhya Pradesh has also supported the scheme, but believed that it must be implemented by the central government.

The states of Karnataka, Bihar, Punjab and Sikkim have given some qualified approvals. The Kerala, however, has protested to some extent, to the long distance inter basin water transfer on the basis that it needed water to supply their intricate network of natural and man-made channels, the court added.

Then President APJ Abdul Kalam, in his address to the nation had on August 14, 2002 observed the need of the hour was the creation of a Water Mission which would look into the question of networking of rivers.

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