Open in new window
- Mains – GS 2 (Governance)
Context: The government has approved the implementation of the Ken-Betwa Link Project (KBLP), one of the links under the Peninsular Rivers Component, in December 2021 with an estimated cost of ₹44,605 crores with central support of ₹39,317 crores through a special purpose vehicle – Ken Betwa Link Project Authority.
About Interlinking of Projects:
- The National River Linking Project (NRLP) formally known as the National Perspective Plan, envisages the transfer of water from water surplus basins where there is flooding to water-deficit basins where there is drought and scarcity, through inter-basin water transfer projects.
- The project is being managed by India’s National Water Development Agency (NWDA), under its Ministry of Jal Shakti.
The two components of the project are:
Himalayan Component has 14 projects in the pipeline:
- Storage dams to be constructed on the rivers Ganga and Brahmaputra and their tributaries.
- Linking of ganga and Yamuna
- Connecting Brahmaputra and ganga basins to the Mahanadi basin.
- Connecting eastern tributaries of the Ganga with the Sabarmati and Chambal river systems.
Peninsular Component projects linking of 16 rivers in southern India:
- Surplus water from Mahanadi and Godavari will be transferred to Krishna, Kaveri, Pennar, and Vaigai rivers.
- Linking Mahanadi and Godavari river basins to Kaveri, Krishna, and Vaigai river systems.
- Ken to Betwa river, and Parbati and Kalisindh rivers to Chambal river.
- West flowing rivers to the south of Tapi to the north of Mumba.
Benefits of National river linking project (NRLP):
- Water crisis: The project envisages resolving the water shortage issues by diverting excess water from plains to deficit regions.
- Hydropower generation: The building of dams and reservoirs can generate about 34000 MW of electricity from this project.
- Weather flow augmentation: In dry weather, surplus water stored in reservoirs can be released to rivers to maintain minimum water flow in rivers.
- Agriculture: The Farming sector in India is very much monsoon-dependent, hence the project aims to solve the lack of irrigation facilities in water deficit regions.
- Inland waterways: The transport and connectivity through inland waterways will benefit commercially.
- Reduce dependence on Monsoon: As Indian agriculture is ‘Gambling with monsoons’, the major benefit will be taken by the farmers who need not depend on the untimely rains for agricultural processes.
The overall implementation of the Interlinking of Rivers program under the National Perspective Plan would give benefits of 35 million hectares of irrigation, raising the ultimate irrigation potential from 140 million hectares to 175 million hectares and generation of 34000 megawatts of hydropower, apart from the incidental benefits of flood control, navigation, water supply, fisheries, salinity and pollution control, etc.
Challenges arising out of Interlinking of Rivers:
- Deforestation: Creation of canals would need large areas of land resulting in large-scale deforestation in certain areas.
- Topography: For the interlinking of the rivers, canals will be built, and that will change the topography of the region.
- Areas getting submerged: Possibility of new dams comes with the threat of large otherwise habitable or reserved land getting submerged under water or surface water.
- For instance, the Ken-Betwa River Interlinking (KBRIL) Project will lead to the submergence of a major portion of the core area of the Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh.
- Aqua life: Several leading environmentalists are of the opinion that the project could be an ecological disaster.
- There would be a decrease in downstream flows resulting in a reduction of freshwater inflows into the seas seriously jeopardizing aquatic life.
- Displacement of people: As large strips of land might have to be converted to canals, a considerable population living in these areas must need to be rehabilitated to new areas.
- International issues: There is a lack of an international legal framework for the projects India is proposing.
- In at least some inter-link projects, neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh may be affected, and international concerns for the project must be negotiated.
- Inter-state disputes: River water has no boundary and flows across different states. Hence River water remains a matter of dispute between the states normally.
- Interlinking of those already disputed rivers can further worsen the situation between the states.
- Dirtying of clean water: As the rivers interlink, rivers with dirty water will get connected to rivers with clean water, hence dirtying the clean water.
The interlinking of rivers project is a major challenge and an opportunity to deal with water-related problems such as drought, floods, climate change, and so on. The long-term strategy for the water deficit problem lies in making the interlinking of rivers challenging by building a network of dams, reservoirs, barrages, hydropower structures, and canals throughout the geographical regions of the country.
However, the interlinking of rivers is a good solution for the shortage of water, but interlinking has to take place after a survey and detailed study to overcome the possible challenges in its implementation.
About National Water Development Agency:
- It was set up in July 1982 as an autonomous society under the Societies Registration act 1860 under the Ministry of Jal Shakti.
- It was established to carry out the water balance and other studies on a scientific and realistic basis for optimum utilization of water resources of the Peninsular River system for preparation of feasibility reports and thus to give concrete shape to the Peninsular River development component of the National perspective plan.
- NWDA explores the feasibility of intra-states links and takes up the work for the preparation of a Detailed Project Report (DPR) of river link proposals under the National Perspective Plan (NPP) and DPRs of intra-State links.
Source: The Hindu