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Essay: Interlinking of rivers in India

India is a country with vast population with extremes of climate, different topography, varied types of soils, annual rainfall ranging from 5 cm to more than 1000 cm. some parts facing the havoc of floods and other parts thirsty for rain drops. Hence a scheme for effective and efficient management of water resources was prepared which envisages interlinking of 37 national rivers through 30 links across 9600 km with 32 connecting dams.

Undoubtedly, interlinking of rivers would provide innumerable facilities and comforts but certain hurdles are bound to arise in the implementation of the project. In the first instance many canals will pass through national parks and sanctuaries and many people may be displaced by the building of dams and canals. The construction of reservoirs and dams may swallow up the natural habitats of wild life and the ecology of the country may be subjected to unknown consequences. Large areas under forests may be submerged under water. According to some scientist’s monsoon rains come all over the country at one and the same time, hence interlinking rivers may cause floods. Then rivers like Ganga and Brahmaputra are international rivers, hence consent of adjacent countries like Nepal and Bangladesh would be a necessity for the completion of the completion of the project. Country is already facing a dispute over sharing of Kaveri river water. Further conflicts may arise between the states on the issue of sharing of water between them. Finally financing of the project will not be so easy.

In view of the director general of National Water Development Agency (NWDA) the interlinking of rivers should be based upon-

Inter-basin transfer is an outstanding example of effective and efficient management of water resources on the basis of need of the people;

Scientific studies dealing with water balances in various basins have already been conducted and it is believed that ecological and environmental problems shall not arise as all possible ameliorative and mitigation measures will be included in implementation of the project;

The problem of displacement, rehabilitation and resettlement of the people affected by the project should not pose a challenge because liberal and enlightened packages would be provided to them;

Scientific studies have been made in full details which incorporate relevant data of surveys and Investigations-Geological, Geophysical and Geo-electrical soil surveys of the command areas, suitable cropping patterns, crop rotation, socio and ecological impacts including a forestation;

Inter-state water agreements will hold good and after meeting the state's demand only surplus water will be directed into other state territories. The donor state may also be compensated with hydro-power or development funds for the water they spare;

Finally it is believed that people's participation and confidence is as important as the political consensus.

Summing up the setting up of a national water grid by linking the major rivers of India is a costly and huge project which has both positive and negative implications. This project which requires a huge political, economic and social discipline will also have a tremendous impact over the neighboring countries. Alternative schemes are also being discussed which seem promising at present but have to be extensively tested before they can appear as a viable solution.

Essay by:
Uma R.Srinath, Bangalore, India