Interlinking Of River In India – Pros And Cons – Full Analysis – The idea behind interlinking of rivers is to transfer water from surplus region to the deficient one through a number of link canals.

The northern plains of India are endowed with surplus water due to the presence of perennial rivers emanating from Himalaya, but the southern and western India has seasonal rivers i.e they have water in the river only during the monsoon season. While we face floods in one region we also face drought in the other region, so can’t we have a system of equitable distribution of water.

Therefore, Government has identified 14 Himalayan rivers, 16 Peninsular rivers and 37 intrastate rivers having potential of interlinking.

Interlinking Of River In India – Pros And Cons – Full Analysis

Interlinking Of River In India - Pros And Cons - Full Analysis

History Of Interlinking Of River In India 

  • The concept is not new to India, it was initiated in the British rule.
  • Ken-Betawa interlinking project in Bundel khand region of UP and MP is the first inter-state river interlinking project in India, recently got approval from NGT.

Pros Of Interlinking Of Rivers In India

  1. Total irrigation potential of the country will increase from 140 million hactares to 175, bringing additional 35 million hactares of land under irrigation. We have gross sown area of 190 million hactares, after interlinking we will have 175 million hactares area under irrigation.
  2. India receives 400 Billion cubic metres of freshwater from precipitation/rainfall. But out of it, 300 Billion cubic metres goes into the sea as surface runoff, without being used for some purpose. The interlinking of rivers projects would create additional capacity to store such water, one estimate suggests that we can store as much as 185 Billion cubic metres of freshwater.
  3. It would generate additional 34000 MW of hydropower. India has also committed at the Paris Climate Deal to reduce carbon footprints by using clean sources of energy. This would help in that regard.
  4. India has one of the highest burden of under 5 mortality, primary reason of which are waterborne diseases. Interlinking can help in providing drinking water to the needy, both in terms of quantity as well as to some extent quality.
  5. Share of water in transportation is very low in India. Highest share is of Road which is also the costliest (RS. 1.5 per km). But the water transport is cheapest (30 paise per km) beside being environment friendly. Interlinking will help in development of inland Navigation and transportation. Govt has identified and declared many waterways as National Waterways. National Waterway 1, 2, 3 are functional as of now.
  6. As a large no. of dams and canals would be constructed, control on floods and drought will become easier. For example, Damanganga-Pinjal river interlinking project in south India.
  7. Agriculture in India is highly dependent on monsoons. Many farmers face losses if there is no sufficient rainfall in the year, and are slipping into poverty. Interlinking of rivers can solve this problem as it reduces the dependence on rainfall.
  8. Linking of rivers can help in installing hydropower plants in many places.
  9. These projects will create a lot of jobs, which can temporarily reduce the unemployment problem in India.
  10. Not just India, but many countries are working on water transfer projects from many years.
  11. China is very successful in implementing inter-basin water transfer projects.
  12. This will make many areas habitable.
  13. Currently some rural areas are facing severe water shortage and this situation is forcing people to migrate to other areas.
  14. More inland water ways can be developed, and thereby transportation costs will reduce.

Cons Of Interlinking Of Rivers in India

  1. The Himalayan river, apart from huge amount of water also bring huge amount of sediments. This causes siltation problem in downstream regions. Due to this, river may shift its course frequently causing floods. Siltation in the basin aggravate the flood situation. For example, huge siltation in Farakkha barrage causing flood in Bihar.
  2. It would have disastrous effect on Delta formation, growth of mangroves and aquatic life. Mangroves require freshwater at regular intervals, they protect the coastal community from tsunami, tides and cyclones (we must not forget that Bay of Bengal is prone to tsunamis as the Burmese Plate is Interacting with Australian Plate in the East Indian ocean). Aquatic organism which are not adaptable to the temperature, chemical, nutrient change will find it difficult to survive, as interlinking will change the nature of water for them. Fishing might get affected.
  3. The centralised storage of water has more disadvantages than decentralized system of water storage like small dams, tanks etc. Decentralized system of storage also provides discretion to the local community to use water as per their needs, unlike in centralised system.
  4. Collecting huge water can cause earthquake, called Reservoir Induced Seismicity. For example, Panchesvaram dam at the india-nepal border, in state of uttarakhand falls in zone 5 of earthquake.
  5. There has been a false assumption that more no. of dams will reduce floods and drought. The area which is flood prone has increased from 26 million hactares at the time of Independence to 50 million hactares today, even after constructing huge dams. Another example, Maharashtra has highest no. of dams in India yet it faces the problem of drought more than other else. Floods and drought are largely man-made disasters. Instead of flood and drought management through interlinking and dam construction, we should focus on water harvesting, afforestation, agro-climatic regionalization and slope stabilisation.
  6. Flood control and hydropower generation are contradictory objectives which cannot be taken up at the same time with great efficiency. Small decentralized hydro projects will generate local employment, provide power to remote areas, and are friendly to the environment.
  7. During the time of scarcity, people of northern India will refuse to share water with the southern. Water sharing disputes are very sensitive, as evident from the current ongoing Mahadayi water dispute between Karnataka and Goa.
  8. If India has reservations when China builds dams then Bangladesh will also have reservations with India when India goes to built a dam. Bangladesh being a lower riparian state is less likely to agree for the interlinking project in India. Carrying out such project may sour up india-bangladesh relations.
  9. According to an estimate, 26 million hactares of land would be required for creation of dams and canals. This will further put burden on the agricultural and Forest land. In future we want more agriculture production to sustain ourselves, that means we cannot compromise with agriculture land. Our Forest cover is just 23% and we want to increase it to 33%, here also we cannot compromise. Moreover, land is also required for pastures, housing, infrastructure etc.
  10. India has a poor record of rehabilitation. The displaced people in Narmada Valley project are still suffering. So rehabilitation will be a major challenge before interlinking project. Forceful land acquisition and poor rehabilitation may lead to problem like left wing extremisms.
  11. Interlinking system is more relying on the canal system. The canal systems multiple problem like evaporation of water, seepage, and a centralised control. Moreover, it is difficult to construct canals in the peninsular India as it is made of hard rocks.

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