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Kerala Govt to accord highest priority to water conservation

Our Bureau

Thiruvananthapuram , March 24

THE State Government has resolved to elevate conservation of water resources and protection of riparian rights to the top of its policy priorities list after being made to bear the brunt of disastrous drought conditions right at the start of the season this year.

Legal remedies are being sought to set right historical wrongs, as in giving concurrence to inter-State river water sharing agreements that are now seen as having been prejudicial to its interests, the Chief Minister, Mr A. K. Antony, told newspersons after a Cabinet meeting.

The Chief Minister, who just returned from a three-day tour of the drought-affected areas, said the conditions were "really bad" that warranted immediate relief measures. He announced that an additional Rs 100 crore was being sanctioned forthwith, which takes cumulative disbursements to Rs 305 crore. The Government will seriously explore methods of preventing such a calamitous situation from recurring in the future.

Funds will not be a constraint in reaching relief to the affected areas. The Cabinet had given its nod to the proposal for making appropriate cuts in Plan funds for being diverted to the relief assistance kitty. In this respect, the Chief Minister felt that the Centre has not been appreciative enough to come up with its share of funds. The State Government finances have been stretched to the limits, and it cannot be expected to deal with the situation on its own.

Commenting on the acute water crisis in the State, he said most of the inter-State river water sharing agreements have been virtual give-aways, executed on the basis of exaggerated claims to ownership of surplus water resources. These claims have evaporated into thin air as exemplified in the drying up of what were once considered "perennial" rivers.

Indiscriminate mining of rivers for sand had only aggravated the situation. This cannot be allowed to continue. Informal discussions with stakeholders were being held to seek and end to river mining.

In this context, there is no question of the Government agreeing to the Pampa-Achenkoil-Vaipar link that would only lead to further diversion of precious water from within the State's territory. This scheme would lead to desertification of the Kuttanad granaries spread over the districts of Kottayam, Pathanamthitta and Alappuzha districts.

Answering a specific question, he said directives have been issued for carrying out urgent repairs to the rusting shutters of the Thanneermukkom Bund and the Thottappilly Spillway. The dysfunctional shutters had led to the ingression of seawater into low-lying Kuttanad, destroying standing crop over large expanses.

Elaborating on the drought relief measures proposed - reaching drinking water to affected areas, compensating farmers for damages and creating badly needed employment opportunities to farm and plantation labour - the Chief Minister said panchayat bodies have been directed to implement them at the local level. District Collectors will coordinate the relief work of the crisis management group at the district level, while the Chief Secretary will manage the affairs of the apex crisis management group at the State-level.

The Collectors have also been asked to come up with latest update on the extent of crop loss and other damages that would be included in the fresh memorandum that the State Government intends to submit for the Centre's consideration.

More Stories on : Water | Kerala

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