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Maharashtra and Gujarat would sign an agreement over the Damanganga-Pinjal river inter- linking project in the next 10-15 days, Union minister Nitin Gadkari said here on Tuesday. He said he had already spoken to Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and his Gujarat counterpart, Vijay Rupani, on the issue and added that both had consented to moving ahead with the project, which aimed at taking care of the water requirements of Mumbai. Gadkari said apart from Damanganga-Pinjal, the government was also aiming at starting the "actual work" on the Ken- Betwa, Par-Tapi-Narmada river-linking and Pancheshwar and North Koel dam projects in the next three months. "I have spoken to the chief ministers of Maharashtra and Gujarat over the Damanganga-Pinjal project. We have worked out a solution and will sign an agreement in the next 10-15 days. This will help fast-track the project," he added. The Union water resources minister said this at the 31st annual general meeting of the National Water Development Agency, which is working on the river inter-linking projects. The water resources ministers of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Jharkhand and Kerala also attended the meeting. The Damanganga-Pinjal project proposes to divert the surplus water of the Bhugad and Khargihill reservoirs in the Damanganga basin to Mumbai, via the Pinjal dam on the Pinjal river in the Vaitarna basin. The project is expected to provide 909 million cubic metres of water to Mumbai for the city's domestic and industrial requirements. Gadkari, who is also the Union road transport and shipping minister, said he would hold discussions with Yogi Adityanath and Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh respectively, on expediting the Ken-Betwa river-linking project, which aims at fulfilling the water requirements of the Bundelkhand region. The ambitious project of the Centre, which has received almost all the major environmental clearances, hit a roadblock in July, when the Madhya Pradesh government allegedly objected to it. The Chouhan government allegedly warned that the first phase of the project would not be allowed to take off if it was not reworked to incorporate three other smaller projects of the state. The Uttar Pradesh government has given a no-objection certificate to the project. Gadkari asked the state water resources ministers to raise awareness among the public on the river-linking projects, given that these could help combat floods and droughts, besides generating electricity and employment. "We will try to present a balanced view before the people.
I am in favour of development as well as the the environment," he said. The Union minister asked those present at the meeting to figure out how the rain or river water flowing into the seas could be utilised. He also urged them to look for cost- effective ways such as building flood protection walls to tackle floods. Besides the three river-linking projects, the government had worked out 27 similar programmes to mitigate floods and drought situations, he said.