New Delhi: Our neighbouring countries should have no apprehension in their minds on the interlinking of rivers as these proposed linkages have been put on hold and work will start only after Memorandum of Understandings are worked out, said Water Resources Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal on Monday.

"There is nothing formalised about the interlinking of rivers. Our neighbours have nothing to apprehend. Any apprehensions in their minds are misplaced. I will try to allay their fears.... The proposed linkages are on the backburner," Water Resources Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal told reporters here.

He said of the 30 proposed projects, only five are under process. These too are in peninsular India and not in international waters.

Bansal said interlinking work would begin only after MoUs and Development Project Reports (DPRs) are prepared.

Referring to the River Interlinking programme mooted by the erstwhile NDA Government, Bansal said five priority areas were earmarked by then Minister Suresh Prabhu. He said "good work" had been done at that time but the whole thing was wound down later.

Some progress had been made only on Ken-Betwa rivers, he said. Pointing out that interlinking of rivers was "a long drawn process", Bansal said though the project is in the country's interest, many issues related to environment, forests and the like had to be sorted out first.

Bansal announced that the government has decided to hold an International Water Week annually starting from this year. The programme for 2012 would be inaugurated on Tuesday by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

(JPN/Agencies)