Project to link 30 rivers

Anjali Venugopalan

New Delhi, Sep 26:  Union Minister for Water Resources Nitin Gadkari met the chief ministers of four BJP-ruled states on Monday to discuss the river interlinking project with them on Monday. Gadkari met with the chief ministers of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh and said that the linkage between Ken and the Betwa rivers (Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh) would happen soon.

Here’s what Gadkari had to say:

Other linkages which have been approved earlier include the Damanganga and the Pinjal (Maharashtra and Gujarat), and the Par, the Tapi and the Narmada rivers (Maharashtra and Gujarat).

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis  said that he got a verbal nod from the Madhya Pradesh government on a proposal to bring water from the Jamghat reservoir in Madhya Pradesh to Nagpur through a 60 km long tunnel.

He said that the concern earlier had been that bringing the water in through canals would disturb forest lands. How the tunnel will leave forest lands undisturbed remains unclear.

The impact on the environment has been one of the major concerns of the river-interlinking project. The project basically seeks to link the Himalayan and peninsular rivers via canals so that excess water can be diverted to areas facing water scarcity. The government also says that this will help control floods. The project proposes to link 30 rivers and is expected to cost Rs. 5.5 lakh crores.

Source: National Water Development Agency

Last year, the Andhra Pradesh government linked the Godavari and the Krishna rivers. The downstream portion of both the rivers has been connected, which means that about 42000 cusecs of the Godavari water flows into the Krishna basin.

Credits: GK Today

However, the linking has come with its share of problems. A report in Scroll last month said that fishermen in the Tadepally village in Andhra Pradesh had been catching the ‘rakashi’ fish in their nets this season.

The fish is worthless and can’t be eaten. It is still unclear whether the fish has come from the Godavari. The lack of impact assessment before launching the river interlinking has been questioned by critics.

A Manimekalam, a marine biologist, said to Scroll, “Rivers can be interlinked if they have the same native species in both waters. Otherwise the entire ecosystem will be disturbed.”

The government says that the land that comes under irrigation will increase if there is more water in the rivers. This too has been questioned.

According to government data, the net national irrigated area from big dams has decreased by about 1.5 million hectares from a peak of 17.79 million ha in 1991-92.
– Himanshu Thakkar, writing for Mint

The report stated that irrigated area at the same time had gone up, and this was due to groundwater. Groundwater is not being used in a sustainable manner, and that’s a problem interlinking of rivers doesn’t solve, according to him.

The government has not released figures on how many people will be displaced by the project. It is also unclear how the Central government will manage to get the support of the states in which the BJP is not in power.

Early this month, Telangana irrigation minister T Harish Rao had said that they would support the upstream interlinking of the Krishna and the Godavari only after the Mahanadi-Godavari linkage was complete. Andhra Pradesh wants the Krishna-Godavari and the Krishna-Pennar to be linked without delay. The Central Government’s plan is actually to have a Mahanadi – Godavari – Krishna – Pennar – Cauvery – Vaigai – Gundar linkage.

In this backdrop, Gadkari’s meeting with the chief ministers of BJP coalition-rules states seems to be an attempt to fast-track the project without opposition. WHO SAYS THIS?