Interlinking of Rivers in India: why It is a bad idea?
India is a water-rich country which has vast surface water resources in the form of perennial rivers and lakes. Still India faces water scarcity and drought in many parts of the country. The main problem with the water resources in India is that they are not equally distributed. In the monsoon season, the Ganga and Brahmaputra river basins face the problem of plenty at the same time many western and peninsular parts of the country face the problem of water scarcity.
To overcome this water shortage, the government of India has proposed a scheme to interlink the various river basins. This interlinking will supply water in drought prone areas through the link canals. This Interlinking would consist of large-scale engineering projects that aim to join the majority of India’s rivers by canals and so reduce persistent water shortages in the southern and western parts of India.
The interlinking of rivers will consist of two main schemes which are:
- The northern part of the project would consist of a series of dams built along the Ganga and Brahmaputra rivers in India, Nepal and Bhutan for the purposes of storage of water. Canals would be built to transfer surplus water from the eastern tributaries of the Ganga to the west. The Brahmaputra and its tributaries would be linked with the Ganga and the Ganga with the Mahanadi River.
- The second part of the project would send water from the eastern part of India to the south and west. The southern development project would consist of four parts. First, the Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna and Kaveri rivers would all be linked by canals. Extra water storage dams would be built along the course of these rivers. The purpose of this would be to transfer surplus water from the Mahanadi and Godavari rivers to the south of India. Second, those rivers that flow west to the north of Mumbai and the south of Tapi would be linked.
If this interlinking of the rivers in India is completed successfully than most of the country’s water woes such as a flood in northern plains, drought in the south and west India may be solved.
At the same time, states of south India who are fighting with each other for the sharing of river waters will stop doing so as there would be enough water. Agriculture production of the country will go up significantly solving the problem of food shortage.
10 reasons why interlinking of rivers in India is a bad idea
The idea of interlinking of rivers in India is criticized by the experts on various fronts. If the government start executing this project, it may result in various kinds of social disputes and ecological problems.
- The first criticism of the interlinking of the rivers is about the huge financial requirements to complete the project. Conservative estimate of the project would be some US$ 140b which a poor country like India can’t afford to spend.
- On paper, this scheme looks simple but the practical implementation is going to be very tough. The change in elevation from the plains of northern India to the Vindhya and Satpura ranges and the Deccan Plateau beyond them, pose a major engineering challenge to the project.
- To implement this project lakhs of people have to be rehabilitated. Going by the examples of Narmada Dam, people are not going to give away their land so easily. So land acquisition will create various kinds of socio-economic problems such as Naxalism and lawlessness.
- The project may result in an environmental disaster as the distribution of water is going to be changed in both the river basins. Water is the main controlling agent of the ecology and biodiversity so interlinking of the rivers may cause the destruction of ecology and biodiversity in the concerned areas.
- The diverting water from the Ganga- Brahmaputra rivers system to other parts of the country will reduce the water discharge into the way of Bengal which may have adversely affected the Indian Monsoon system. Change in the behaviour of Monsoon system will nullify the very purpose of the project.
- The salinity pattern of Bay of Bengal will change as the discharge of freshwater into the Bay of Bengal will decrease. This may affect the marine life and ecology of the Sunderban delta.
- The interlink would create a path for aquatic ecosystems to migrate from one river to another, which in turn may affect the livelihoods of people who rely on the fishery as their income.
- If the Project is put to implementation it may lead to water shortage in northern regions as Climate change is affecting the pattern of the Indian Monsoon.
- Sharing of water among the Indian states is not going to be so easy, as concerned states are already in disputes for the sharing of river waters.
- India is in agreement with Bangladesh for the sharing of waters of the rivers such as Ganga and Brahmaputra. In order to respect the water sharing agreement, India can’t divert water to other parts of the country.
The social, economic and environmental cost of the interlinking of the rivers is much more than its proposed benefits. So before going ahead with such projects more study and research has to be done. If possible, Country should explore other alternative ways to overcome its water needs. Water conservation, Rainwater harvesting, sustainable agriculture are the other easy and viable solutions which India should explore. As this kind of project once implemented it will not possible to go back.