River Interlinking – UPSC GS1

What is the Inter-Linking of Rivers Programme?
  • Aim: The Inter Linking of Rivers programme (ILR) programme is aimed at linking different surplus rivers of the country with deficient rivers so that the excess water from surplus regions could be diverted to deficient regions.
  • Need:
    • Reducing Regional Imbalance: India depends on monsoon rains that are erratic as well as regionally imbalanced. Interlinking of rivers will reduce the amount of surplus rain and river water which flows into the sea.
    • Irrigation for Agriculture: Interlinking can provide a solution to the rain-fed irrigation problems of Indian agriculture through the transfer of surplus water to deficit regions.
    • Reducing Water Distress: This can help in mitigating the effect of drought and floods to a certain extent.
    • Other Benefits: Hydropower generation, Round the year navigation, Employment generation, Ecological benefits as dried up forests and lands will be replenished.
  • Challenges:
    • Environmental Costs: The project threatens to obstruct the natural ecology of rivers.
    • Climate Change:
      • In interlinking systems, it is assumed that the donor basin has surplus water that can be made available to the recipient basin.
      • The whole concept goes for a toss if this basic assumption goes haywire for any system due to climate change.
    • Economic Costs: It is estimated that river interlinking will be a huge fiscal burden on the Government.
    • Socio-Economic Impact: It is estimated that the network of canals extending to about 15000 km would displace about 5.5 million people, mostly tribals and farmers.
Way Forward:
  • India needs to conserve every drop of water, reduce wastage, equitable distribution of resources and at the same time enhance groundwater. So the small scale simple things have to be tried.
  • Local solutions (like better irrigation practice) and watershed management, should be focused on.
  • The government should alternatively consider the National Waterways Project (NWP) which “eliminates” friction between states over the sharing of river waters since it uses only the excess flood water that goes into the sea unexploited.
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.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top