Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti argues that river interlinking will cost the government about Rs.
10 trillion and the spate of projects that involve connecting 14 for Himalayan rivers and 16 in peninsular India implies that 15,000 km of new canals will have to be added to relocate 174 BCM of water.
“Storage provides you flexibility in the uses of water. Being able to successfully transfer water through the interlinking of rivers will mean 35 million hectares of irrigation, raising the ultimate irrigation potential from 140 million hectare to 175 million hectare and generation of 34000 megawatt of power, apart from the incidental benefits of flood control, navigation, water supply, fisheries, salinity and pollution control, according to the Central government.
Dams are required but whether they must be big or small is something that must be decided based on the region they are located,” said G. Perils of linking rivers Yet not all are convinced of the feasibility and benefits of the proposal.
For most of March and April, Thursdays are dismal news days for India’s Central Water Commission (CWC), the nodal body responsible for commissioning dams and major water-storage bodies, and monitoring their health.
On that day they make public the state of water storage in India’s principal reservoirs and the general news has been that water has plummeted to historic lows, both in terms of the corresponding period of last year and also compared to the average storage of last ten years during the corresponding period. For the purposes of monitoring, the CWC divides India’s rivers into 12 major basins.
The evidence on the benefits of the interlinking scheme is mixed.
On the one hand the project is built on hopes that it will boost per capita water availability for 220mn water-hungry Indians.
Apart from the massive displacement of people that such projects will bring about, says activist Himanshu Thakkar, they also threaten to obstruct the natural ecology of rivers.
Former Planning Commission member, Mihir Shah noted in a critique of India’s river-interlinking projects in the Economic and Political Weekly that in the Krishna river basin water storage in major and medium reservoirs has reached total water yield with virtually no water going into the sea in low rainfall years.