About the Inter-Linking of Rivers programme :
- The aim is to divert excess water from surplus regions to deficient regions to help improve irrigation, increase water for drinking and industrial use and also to mitigate drought and floods to an extent.
The priority interlinking projects :
The Special Committee for Inter-Linking of Rivers :
- The special committee was set up following a Supreme Court direction on a 2012 writ petition on ‘Networking of Rivers’.
- The SC directed the Centre to set up a special committee that would then constitute sub-committees.
- It directed the committee to submit a bi-annual report to the Cabinet on status and progress, and directed the Cabinet to take appropriate decisions.
The status reports are meant to be in accordance with the National Perspective Plan. This plan was formulated in 1980 by the Ministry of Irrigation (now Water Resources) to look into inter-basin transfers.
The plan comprises two components: peninsular rivers development and Himalayan rivers development.
India also has a National Water Development Agency (NWDA), which was set up in 1982, to conduct surveys and see how feasible proposals for interlinking river projects are.
The Special Committee for Inter-Linking of Rivers has submitted its progress report for the work done from July 2016 to March 2018 to the Union Cabinet.
Looking at each case in detail
1. Ken-Betwa :
- The project aims to link the rivers Ken(Bundelkhand region) and Betwa, both flowing through Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
- It proposes to divert the surplus waters of river Ken through the Ken-Betwa link canal to river Betwa for meeting water requirements in the deficit Betwa basin.
2. Damanganga-Pinjal :
- The project aims to divert excess water from rivers in western India to meet the domestic and industrial water requirements of Greater Mumbai.
- It proposes to move available water at the proposed Bhugad reservoir across the Damanganga and at the proposed Khargihill reservoir across the Vagh, a tributary of the Damanganga. These two reservoirs, proposed by the NWDA, will be linked to the Pinjal reservoir (proposed by Maharashtra) through pressure tunnels.
3. Par-Tapi-Narmada :
- The project proposes to transfer water from the Western Ghats to water-deficit regions of Saurashtra and Kutch via seven reservoirs proposed in northern Maharashtra and southern Gujarat.
- It is an attempt to save water at the Sardar Sarovar project by using feeder canals to service a part of the command area of the dam.
Is inter-linking of rivers feasible ?
The ecology of every river being unique, experts have stressed that letting the waters of two rivers mix may affect biodiversity.
Because the programme proposes the construction of a massive network of canals and dams, it would lead to large-scale displacement of people and changes in agricultural patterns, and affect livelihoods.
Another objection raised is that rainfall patterns are changing due to climate change, so the basins now supposed to be surplus, might cease to be so in a few years.