The government allayed apprehensions about the three dams being built by China on the Brahmaputra, saying the projects will not affect India as most of the water in the river comes from Arunachal Pradesh.
"The issue has been taken up by India at the highest level. Our prime minister discussed it with the president of China when they met recently," Water Resources Minister Harish Rawat told reporters. He maintained that the three dams being constructed by China will not affect India's use of the river.
"Most of the water to the Brahmaputra comes from Arunachal Pradesh and other places," Rawat said.
He was speaking at a press conference held to announce the commencement of India Water Week from April 8-12.
Prime Minister Singh and Chinese President Xi Jinping had discussed the issue on March 8 on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Durban. While China maintains these constructions are run of the river projects, India has emphasised that there should be prior confabulations to build greater confidence.
The India Water Week will be inaugurated by President Pranab Mukherjee on April 8. Around 1,758 registrations from 64 countries have been made so far for the conclave. Around 200 papers are likely to be presented at the five-day meet.
Rawat highlighted some of the major concerns of his ministry including growing pollution of rivers, drought in Maharashtra and other states, and sharing of water between states. He said National Water Policy-2012 is aimed at dealing with these challenges.
Asked about the controversy over use of huge quantities of water for maintaining the grounds for IPL matches in drought-hit Maharashtra, Rawat said this issues comes under state jurisdiction. "We can only advise the states that water is precious and should be used judiciously," he said.
There is widespread criticism of the consumption of water in IPL grounds, especially in Maharashtra which is facing drought in some parts.
Rawat said more than Rs 1,000 crore has been released to Maharashtra to fight the drought. "We will extend all possible help," he added.
Representatives from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and other countries will be taking part in the India Water Week, which is the second such meet being held in New Delhi.
Asked about the need to increase flow of water into Yamuna river, Rawat said his ministry is looking at ways to regulate flow by building reservoirs and storing Yamuna water near the banks. A committee has been formed to come up with suggestions.
On the issue of pollution in Yamuna, he said efforts like building parallel canals are being made.
India Water Week will focus on the need for construction of multi-purpose reservoirs, roping in the states on water conservation, preserving small water bodies, improving the water table. The 12th Plan will contribute towards meeting some of these goals.
On the Cauvery water dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, Rawat said the government has sought legal opinion.
"As soon as we get it, we will act on it," he said.
The government is also working on strengthening around 5,100 dams- some of which are more than 50 years old- that exist in the country. Under the Dam Rehabilitation and Management Project, around 243 dams are being improved.
The minister said four states, namely, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh are the main focus areas at present.
The Standing Committee on Water Resources has also held detailed discussions on the Dam Safety Bill. "It is with the law ministry and we hope it will be passed soon."
The minister said pollution due to half-burnt bodies being thrown into rivers and immersion of idols of Ganesh and Durga can be dealt with only if public opinion is built over the issue.