River Interlinking

Background:

Since the 1980s, the interlinking project has been managed by India’s National Water Development Agency (NWDA) under the Ministry of Water Resources. It has been split into three parts:
  • A northern Himalayan rivers interlink component.
  • A southern peninsular component.
  • An intra-State rivers linking component.
The NWDA has studied and prepared reports on 14 projects for the Himalayan region, 16 projects for the peninsular India component and 36 intra-State river interlinking projects. However, various governments have shelved the idea for a number of reasons
Recent news:
The Ken-Betwa river interlinking project is being vigorously promoted by the incumbent NDA government as the first in a series of projects to transfer surplus water from certain rivers into deficient ones and improve irrigation as well as hydropower availability.
Given the threat to the tiger reserve, the Environment Ministry, whose clearance is mandatory for the project, had tasked the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) with an expert analysis on the environmental impact.
The panel warns of the dangers to the ecology and animal life due to the proposed Ken-Betwa project.
Critically analyse the merits and demerits of inter – river linking project that has been mooted to solve various issues arising out of both water deficiency and sufficiency in India. (200 Words)
ILR project is an idea to transfer water from surplus river basins to ease the water shortages in western and southern India. It comprises of 30 links to connect 37 Himalayan and peninsular rivers.
ILR project is supposed to
1. Diminish water scarcity in western and east-peninsular India.
2. Help in irrigation as a large part of Indian agriculture is rainfall dependent
3. Mitigate droughts and floods
4. Reduce diversity between the water surplus and water scarce parts of India
5. Create employment
6. Help in socio-economic development of people
7. Help in infrastructure of cities nearby with the availability of water.
8. Boost inland water transport
9. Hydro-power generation
10. Boast to fishery industries
Why is it being opposed?
1. Huge capital requirement.
2. Project may take 50 years to complete
3. Can cause seismic hazards in Himalaya.
4. Execution is difficult as 21/30 links are dependent on other links.
5. Displacement of tribal and poor.
6. Inter-state water disputes
7. Loss of forest and biodiversity
8. Return in investment is argued to be low.
9. It will disturb the water cycle.
ILR project is itself a half century long project with a huge capital requirement. India needs to slowly start implementing these projects, see their consequences and learn from the mistakes before starting to work on the other links.