India faces scarcity of water in different regions due to erratic rainfall and variations in monsoon. Thus the river interlinking project aims to solve the problems associated with water scarcity. The river interlinking project aims to link India’s rivers by a network of canals and reservoirs, and this will allow water from the high water availability area to be shared with water-scarce areas.
The history of river interlinking can be traced back to the 19th century when Sir Arthur Cotton envisaged this idea for southern India. But this plan came into effect in later on in the whole of India. the main idea behind this project is the perennial properties of Gangetic rivers and irregularity inflows of southern rivers.
Interlinking of river programme is of National importance programme. It is managed by National Water Development Agency(NWDA). It includes three components:-
- A Northern Himalayan component
- A southern peninsular component
- An intra-state river component
Project under this programme includes:-
- ken-Betwa link project
- Damanganga - Pinjal link project
- Par – Tapi –Narmada link project
- Mahanadi – Godavari link project
- Godavari- Cauvery( Grand Anicut) project, etc.
Benefits of river interlinking:
- India receives most of its rainfall in monsoon season in northern and eastern parts during monsoon, and western and southern part remains dry. it will be these places that face scarcity of water. Rivers Interlinking will help these areas to have water throughout the year.
- In the field of Agriculture, it’ll have huge benefits like:-
- For farmers:- their dependence on monsoon rainfall for sowing and harvesting will reduce. It’ll also bring a thousand hectares of cultivable lands under irrigation.
- An increase in production will increase farmer’s income and increase the consumption expenditure in the economy.
- It’ll help in the mechanisation of agriculture.
- An increase in the production of crops will benefit the state revenue.
- Beneficial in solving the problem of floods in eastern India. Also, Ganga and Brahmaputra river basins face floods almost every year. Therefore this problem can be very well sorted out with river interlinking.
- It’ll help in the forecasting of crop output and help in setting the MSP for Rabi and Kharif crops for government schemes.
- Renewable energy:- India needs a lot of clean energy to meet the requirement of the growing population. River interlinking can provide a reliable source of clean energy.
- It’ll have socio-economic effects on the life of people. This will provide large scale employment, therefore increasing the income of people. Also, it’ll help in poverty alleviation and economic regeneration.
- It’ll also help in improving the water transportation system. This will make the transportation process quite cheaper.
- It also paves the way for tourism as such kinds of sights is of great attraction to the tourists.
- The fisherman community can also be benefitted from river interlinking. it can boost the development of pisciculture.
- In water-scarce areas, the burden of bringing water from far away areas are on women. Therefore river interlinking can provide easy and regular availability of water in these areas. They are, therefore reducing the burden on women — E.G. Indira Gandhi link canal in Punjab –Haryana and Rajasthan.
Issues associated with river interlinking in India:
- In order to interlink the river, the natural path of the river will be modified. This, in turn, can lead to problems like silt deposition and irregular delta formation.
- Also, less availability of water in oceans due to impaired flow of rivers can hamper the evaporation cycle and thus damaging monsoon cycles.
- The Ken- Betwa link project is the river interlinking project that aims to transfer surplus water from the ken river (MP) to Betwa(Uttar Pradesh) to cure the water scarcity in the Bundelkhand region. But this project has been criticised for environmental concerns like construction of the Daudhan dam on this link will lead to submergence of Panna Tiger Reserve of MP.
- Environmental concerns include flooding of areas with rich, diverse flora and fauna. They are, therefore creating menace.
- It’ll also lead to disputes among states regarding river interlinking projects, therefore harming the integrity of India. E.g. Polavaram project on river Godavari and Krishna river basins.
- River interlinking requires a lot of money, therefore, creating a fiscal deficit for both central and state governments.
- Rivers may change their course after years. Therefore the whole process becomes redundant after the change in the path of the river.
- The interlinking may cause the transfer of pollutants from severely polluted rivers to less polluted rivers. Therefore widening the problems.
- The building of dams and reservoirs can cause harm to aquatic life in the river, and its tributaries due to variance in salinity and temperature at different places.
- River interlinking projects leads to the drowning of large areas of land underwater, therefore, creating problems elated with the displacement of people. It’ll pose livelihood related problems for displaced people also. In tribal areas, these projects can further lead to a rise in Naxalite ideology.
- Relations with countries like Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan may also become problematic. Already transboundary river water sharing is a cause of dispute with these nations.
Some international river interlinking projects include:
- Rhine-Main – Danube canal: it connects the Main river to the Danube river. It provides a rich source of irrigation, power generation and navigation facility in the Netherland and nearby areas.
- South – north water transfer project of China. It aims to cure the problem of floods in the south and drought in the north of China by linking the Yangtze river basin in the south to the Yellow, Hai, and Huai rivers in the north.
- Mahaveli – Ganga project of Srilanka include several inter-basin transfer links.
- In Canada projects such Ogoki, long Lake and NAWAPA etc.
- California state water project of the United States is also a good example.
- Tackling the water woes in India, there is a need for much research on the river - interlinking projects and environmental cost associated with it.
- Successful international practices such as by China need to be followed in the implementation of these projects in India.
- Impact on the environment and life of people should be taken into consideration before the initiation of the project.
- There is also a need for a mandatory policy for the interlinking of rivers in India which includes necessary guidelines to be followed for such projects.