China projects won’t affect Brahmaputra water flow: Minister

New Delhi, July 5 (Calcutta Tube) China has told India it will only carry out ‘run-of-the-river’ projects on the Brahmaputra that will not affect the flow of water, says Water Resources Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal.

‘There is intimation from China that it will only carry out run-of-the-river projects, which would not affect the flow of water from the Brahmaputra in India,’ Bansal told IANS in an interview.

Asked about reports of China constructing a dam over the Brahmaputra, the minister said imageries do not suggest it is building a major dam on the river. ‘Imageries show some activity…but it cannot be inferred that some major dam construction is under way for the purpose of diverting or impounding water,’ he said.

The minister said China was sharing with India hydrological information concerning the Brahmaputra during the flood season.

‘China is sharing hydrological information during the flood season in respect of three stations – Nugesha, Yangcun and Nuxia on the Yaluzangbu or Brahmaputra from June 1 to Oct 15. The hydrological information includes water level, discharge and rainfall and it is supplied by China twice daily,’ he said.

The minister said India needs intense water conservation efforts as its per capita availability has declined due to population growth and the demand for water has increased to meet the challenge of food security.

‘Population growth coupled with industrialization and urbanization – the average annual availability of water resources for the country as a whole remaining unchanged – we face the challenge of meeting increased demand for water for various purposes, particularly food security,’ Bansal said.

He said reduction in the per capita availability of water was due to population growth and added that climate change presents yet another serious challenge.

‘Most studies indicate that climate change could impact water resources in many ways such as intensification of extreme events with likely increase in intensity and frequency of floods and droughts.’

The per capita availability of water in the country was 5,177 cubic metres in 1951 and fell to 1,820 cubic metres in 2001. Bansal said the government was taking steps to increase reservoir storage capacity in the country.

Bansal, who is the MP from Chandigarh, said a decline in the groundwater table was a serious concern not only in Punjab but also in other parts of the country.

Citing the results of a survey by the Central Ground Water Board in cooperation with the state governments, he said 839 out of 5,723 assessed blocks were overexploited where the stage of development of groundwater was more than 100 percent.

‘The overexploited blocks are spread over Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. About 13.6 percent of the blocks are at a critical or semi-critical stage.’

Bansal said his ministry was promoting rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharge and better management and regulation of water resources. Eleven states and union territories have implemented legislation to regulate groundwater, he added.

Asked about the standing committee recommendation for bringing all water- related issues under a single ministry, Bansal said a Group of Ministers (GOM) has been set up under the chairmanship of Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar for evolving an integrated strategy for water management .

Ministers of power, urban development, rural development and panchayati raj, housing and urban poverty alleviation, science and technology, earth sciences, micro, small and medium enterprises, environment and forests, water resources and the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission were its members.

On the proposed Dam Safety Bill, the minister said it had been approved by the cabinet. He hoped the bill will be introduced in the monsoon session of parliament.

(Prashant Sood can be contacted at prashant.s@ians.in)

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