The `Inter-Linking of Rivers’ is also often referred to as `Inter-Basin Transfers‘. Essentially, the thinking is that the disparities in the different river basins of India call for water transfers from the `surplus’ basins to the `deficit’ basins. This has exercised the minds of the Indian water-resource planners for a long time. It is one of the major governmental projects to join or link two rivers, so that water deficit areas of the countries can be benefited. The idea behind Inter linking of river is to divert water from surplus rivers in the north and east, which face frequent flooding, to water scarce regions in the west and south, where droughts are a common occurrence.
The National Water Development Agency (NWDA) was established in 1982 to work out basin-wise surpluses and deficits and study the possibilities of storage, links and transfers. During the last two decades the NWDA has done a great deal of work and produced an impressive amount of documentation
Inter linking of river involves connecting 37 rivers through 30 links, 14,900-km canals and 3,000 storages. Inter linking of river is supposed to add 35 million hectares to India’s irrigated land, more than a third of the present gross irrigated area, and help generate 34,000 MW or over 12 per cent of the current.NWDA undertook the studies in two main components, namely the Himalayan Rivers component and the Peninsular Rivers component.
Himalayan Rivers Development Component envisages construction of storage reservoirs on the principal tributaries of Ganga and Brahmaputra rivers in India, Nepal and Bhutan along with interlinking of river systems to transfer surplus flows of the eastern tributaries of the river Ganga to the west, apart from linking of the main Brahmaputra and its tributaries with Ganga and Ganga with the river Mahanadi. The general idea is to transfer water from the Brahmaputra and the Ganga systems westwards to southern Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, and Rajasthan, and perhaps eventually southwards to the peninsular component.
The Peninsular Rivers component involves a number of links, of which the most important would be those connecting the Mahanadi, the Godavari, the Krishna, the Pennar and the Cauvery.
Other links would be Ken-Betwa, Parbati-Kalisindh-Chambal, Par-Tapi-Narmada, Damanganga-Pinjal, etc. Another idea is the partial diversion of certain rivers flowing into the Arabian Sea eastwards to link with rivers flowing into the Bay of Bengal (Bedti-Varda, Netravati-Hemavati, Pamba-Achan-kovil-Vaippar).
CHALLENGES IN ILR
- River inter-linking is an expensive business from building the link canals to the monitoring and maintenance infrastructure. Implementation of the project not only needs a huge financial capital but also political support, both are scarce commodities as of now.
- A north to south inter-linking of rivers is physically not possible. The barrier imposed by the Vindhya Mountains makes it expensive to lift water along the north and south axis. It is also unnecessary.
- Another important issue is building consensus among states and Land acquisition.
- Once the project is implemented it would lead to large scale displacement of people and animals. Hence appropriate rehabilitation measures should be taken by the Government.
- A careful scientific assessment of the project and its impact on the environment, is necessary in case of a project of this magnitude especially with regard to Biodiversity