General Studies Paper 1
- Recently, the Steering Committee of the Ken-Betwa Link Project (KBLP) held its third meeting in New Delhi.
River-linking in India
- The idea of river-linking:
- In the 1970s, the idea of transferring surplus water from a river to a water-deficit area was proposed by the then Union Irrigation Minister (earlier the Jal Shakti Ministry was known as the Ministry of Irrigation).
- National Perspective Plan (NNP):
- It was prepared by the then Ministry of Irrigation (now Ministry of Jal Shakti) in 1980 for water resources development through the inter-basin transfer of water.
- It aimed for transferring water from water-surplus basins to water-deficit basins.
- The NPP comprised two components:
- Himalayan Rivers Development:
- It envisages the construction of storage reservoirs on the main Ganga and Brahmaputra Rivers and their principal tributaries in India and Nepal so as to conserve monsoon flows for irrigation and hydro-power generation, besides flood control.
- Links will transfer surplus flows of the Kosi, Gandak and Ghagra to the west.
- Surplus flows that will become available on account of the interlinking of the Ganga and the Yamuna are proposed to be transferred to the drought-prone areas of Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat.
- Peninsular Rivers Development:
- The main component of Peninsular Rivers Development is the “Southern Water Grid”which is envisaged to link Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, Pennar, and Cauvery rivers.
Significance of River interlinking
- Balancing the uneven water availability:
- Most part of the country is monsoon dependent and the quantum of rain varies widely across different regions.
- Therefore, interlinking will help in balancing the uneven water availability.
- Tackling droughts and floods:
- The Indian Rivers Inter-link aims to link India’s rivers with a network of reservoirs and canals and so reduce persistent floods in some parts and water shortages in other parts of India.
- Efficient logistic movement:
- The interlinking of river projects can help India in increase connectivity by creating more inland waterways, therefore, cater the logistic deficiency.
Criticisms around River interlinking
- Damage to ecology:
- Changes to Rivers natural course will have an impact on all the flora and fauna, the wetlands and the floodplains that are intricately linked to the river system.
- The long-term environmental impact of such a project is a major concern.
- Threat to Fertile deltas:
- The River Linking Projects will not only reduce the inflow of the northern rivers but also significantly reduce the sediments deposited by the rivers in deltas.
- Fertile deltas will be under threat,with coastal erosion expected to threaten the land and livelihoods of local economies.
- Costly affair:
- River inter-linking is an expensive business from building the link canals to the monitoring and maintenance of infrastructure.
- Disagreement between the states:
- The states couldn’t agree on how water would be shared, particularly in the non-monsoonal months.
- Regarding Ken-Betwa river link project:
- Issues of water security:
- Critics are concerned that the project will endanger the water security of Panna.
- According to them, there may not even be enough water in the Ken, a non-perennial river, to meet the projected needs of the Betwa.
- Inter-state conflicts:
- This linking may also intensify water conflicts between Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh;
- Endangering Panna Tiger Reserve & Ken Gharial Sanctuary:
- Out of the 6,017 ha of forest area coming under submergence of Daudhan dam of Ken Betwa Link Project, 4,206 ha of the area lies within the core tiger habitat of Panna Tiger Reserve.
- Panna is exceptional tiger habitat because of its deep gorges, which will be drowned if the new dam is built.
- Downstream of the national park lies the Ken Gharial Sanctuary, created to protect the critically endangered Gangetic gharial.
- Accoding to the experts, the destructive impact of the proposed dam on the flow of water into and outside of this sanctuary should be immediately clear.
- River interlinking can 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.