Government’s plan of interlinking rivers is impractical, says Water Reform Panel

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Published: August 21, 2016 1:10:39 PM

A seven-member committee led by former member of the Planning Commission has questioned Uma Bharti's scheme of interlinking of rivers.

uma bharti, river basins, river linking, inter linking of riversInterestingly Uma Bharti is the Minister of Water Resources, while the committee opposing the scheme has been appointed by the ministry itself. (PTI)

A seven-member committee led by former member of the Planning Commission has questioned Uma Bharti’s scheme of interlinking of rivers. Interestingly Uma Bharti is the Minister of Water Resources, while the committee opposing the scheme has been appointed by the ministry itself. The Mihir Shah led committee has cited major problems in the scheme including costs. According to reports submitted to the ministry by the committee, the estimated cost of the scheme to link Himalayan rivers with Peninsular rivers for inter-basin transfer was Rs. 5,60,000 crore in 2001. Furthermore, the land acquisition and relief, and rehabilitation costs would add to the budget. There are no firm estimates available either, for the cost of the power required to lift such amounts of water. The report also stated that since Indian rivers have excess water during the monsoons, the transfer from a surplus basin to a deficient basin would not be the best of ideas.

Since the nation depends heavily on the monsoons, the time periods where these rivers have ‘surplus’ water are naturally synchronised across the subcontinent. One of the key issues is reported in the planning of inter-basin transfers would be taking into account the needs of the states that rely on this basin, which will only grow over time. the reports also said that if such an interlinking happens, it might completely bypass the core dryland areas of central and western India, located 300 metres+ above sea level. Earlier, as reported by the Indian Express, a study conducted by the IIt Madras and IIt Bombay, had raised concerns over the rationality of river interlinking. It had shown that the rainfall in surplus basins was on a decline, while the deficient basins saw an increase per year. This meant that the rainfall was getting more uniform, negating the need for interlinking of rivers.

At present, 30 inter-basin transfer links have been proposed all over the country. The concept that originated in the 1980s has been approved in the Ken-Betwa link of Madhya Pradesh by the cabinet and awaits environmental clearance, amidst protests by water and civil society organisations. The report filed by the 7 member committee pointed out that the river linking might deplete the natural supply of nutrients through curtailing flooding of downstream areas. Constructing Dams for the rivers would cause coastal and delta erosion and bring down the sediment supply.

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