Inter-Linking of Rivers

  • Interlinking of rivers is necessary to overcome anomaly of uneven temporal and spatial distribution of rainfall in the country. It is also necessary to remove the regional imbalances in the country.
Inter-Linking of Rivers
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  • Currently, Himalayan Rivers has perennial flow with often serious flooding during monsoon months. While the Peninsular Rivers have flows during the monsoon months and have very low or run dry during other times of the year. This anomaly has been visualised to be solved by Interlinking of Rivers. 

Current Program

  • The program for interlinking of major rivers comprises 30 links to share available waters equitably between different basins and states. The current program has two components: The National Perspective Plan for Inter-Linking of rivers
    • Himalayan Component: 14 Links
    • Peninsular Component: 16 links

Challenges to River Linking Program

  • Interstate challenges: Lack of consensus on implementation of the project among the co-basin states.
  • International Relations: International Issues involved, such as concerns of neighboring countries such Resettlement and rehabilitation of the project affected people.
  • Financial Burden: High project funding cost. It is estimated that the project will involve.
  • Infrastructural challenges
    • Construction of big dams. 
    • Arresting flow of fresh water can harm mangroves.
    • Resettlement of large population.
  • Environmental Challenges
    • Low flow of fresh water to Bay of Bengal can reduce freshwater layer over Bay of Bengal. This can have regressive impact over monsoons.
    • Regime change of rivers and consequential changes in physical and chemical composition of sediment, river morphology and shape of delta. 
    • Submergence of land leading to deforestation and soil erosion. 
    • Adverse impact on coastal ecosystems and deltas on East Coast of India. 
    • Dams result in diversion of forest areas, increased methane emissions from reservoirs, reservoir induced seismicity. 
    • Adverse effect on groundwater recharge and diversion of forest areas for dam building.
    • Increased saline ground water intrusion 
    • Risk for delicate wetland and estuarine ecology which is not only aquatic habitats and fisheries.
    • There can be waterlogging and desertification.
  • The water surplus in most river basins of India is during the same period of monsoons. After the monsoon season even the so-called water surplus states such as Punjab, UP, Uttarakhand face water deficits. Hence, during this period there will be no surplus left to transfer to peninsular states.
  • The river interlinking will involve pumping the water from Himalayan rivers to the peninsular India which will involve increase of height of water by 1000 m. This will involve huge cost for pumping. 

Way Forward

  • In interlinking proposals, a provision of the minimum lean season flow should be safeguarded to maintain the ecology and the river regime.
  • Cumulative impact assessment for the entire project should be done and not on component-by-component basis.
  • Rehabilitation and Resettlement should be done prior to undertaking the projects.
  • First projects should be identified which has least opposition. Ken Betwa Linkage is the first Inter-linkage proposal to be taken up; it should be completed as lighthouse of the project.
  • Despite the project, it will not be able to solve all water issues in the country. Hence, the focus should be on reforming the water governance (as per Mihir Shah Committee Report), focus on water use efficiency, participatory water governance and reforms in water usage in agricultural sector.
  • Water availability will be the main developmental concern. All possible steps should be taken to solve this after consensus building.
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