The government of India has proposed to establish an exclusive body that will implement projects to link rivers across the country. This independent autonomous body will look into the planning, investigation, financing and implementation of a project.
- The proposed body NIRA will operate projects at both inter-State and intra-State.
- It will ensure generation of the fund from internal and external sources.
- The panel includes Irrigation or Water Resources Ministers and Secretaries of States under the chairmanship of Union Minister of Jal Shakti.
- It will replace National Water Development Agency (NWDA) and act as an umbrella body for all river linking projects.
- Currently, an expert committee from Jal Shakti Ministry, Central Water Commission and NWDA is leading the Task Force for ILR.
NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT (NRLP)
- It was earlier known as National Perspective Plan.
- The vision of NRLP is to transfer water from water surplus basins to water deficit basins (where there is drought, scarcity) through these linking river projects.
- As there is shortage of water in western and southern India while recurrent floods can be witnessed in eastern parts of the Ganga Basin, the project aims to balance the disparities by transferring the water.
- The idea was first conceived by Sir Arthur Cotton 125 years back to ease trading but was never implemented.
- There are 29 canals of an area of 9,600 km under the propose NRLP, which has the movement of 245 trillion liters of water.
- It will become world’s biggest inter-basin water transfer project after implementation.
ILR PROJECTS IN INDIA
- There are six projects under the vigilance of the authorities. They are Ken-Betwa, Damanganga-Pinjal, Par-Tapi-Narmada, Manas-Sankosh-Teesta- Ganga, Mahanadi-Godavari and Godavari-Cauvery (Grand Anicut).
- Among these, Ken-Betwa is the first such project in India.
- Central government is focusing over Godavari-Cauvery link than Mahanadi-Godavari-Krishna-Pennar-Cauvery rivers.
DOWNSIDES OF THE PROJECT
The flip side of the coin brings some concerns and challenges as well. Therefore, the government needs to take care of the following challenges:
- Ecological issue: As rivers change their course in 70-100 years, this linkage can hinder the very objective of the project in future when the river changes its course.
- Aqua life: Many environmentalists fear that it can prove to be an ecological disaster as the downstream flow would decrease and reduce the flow of fresh water into the seas which will put the aquatic life at risk.
- Deforestation: Large areas would be required to make canals; it will result into cutting down of tress at big scale.
- Submersion of Areas: Building of new canals may cause submersion of large habitable or reserved land under water or surface water. Fertile deltas can be harmed, coastal erosion may occur which will threaten the land and livelihoods of the local economies of 160 million people.
- Displacement of people: Converting a large area of land into canal will affect population living in the region. They must need be rehabilitated to new areas.
- Impurification of clean water: Due to interlink, fresh and clean water can get impurified by the dirty water of another river.
- Disruption of ecological flow: The implementation of the project can cause decrease in natural flow of water. It is said that Ganga may witness 24% decrease, its tributaries Gandak and Ghaghara will be worst affected with decrease of -68% and -55% decrease respectively. The Brahmaputra and its tributaries Manas, Sankosh, Raidhak will witness slow down of flow by 6%, -73%, -72%, and -53% respectively.
- Changing of the flow of water and trapping of silt in reservoirs will reduce the sediments deposit by river.