February 27th, 2012
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SC gives green signal to interlinking of rivers project

National river linking project New Delhi: The Supreme Court has asked the Centre to implement the interlinking of rivers project in a time-bound manner and to appoint a high-powered committee for its planning and implementation. The apex court observed that the project is in national interest.

The three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia has appointed a high-powered committee comprising of Union Minister of Water Resources, its secretary, Secretary of Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) and four expert members appointed by Water Resources Ministry, Finance Ministry, Planning Commission, Ministry of Environment and Forest and NGO’s to monitor the project. Representatives from state governments, two social activists and senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, who has been assisting the court in the case, will also be members of the committee.

The court said that the committee will meet at least once in two months and its recommendations will be considered by the cabinet within 30 days of receipt. The project is a large-scale civil engineering project that aims to join the majority of India’s  rivers by canals and so reduce persistent water shortages in parts of India.

Plans for parts of the Indian rivers inter-link were mooted in the British period. In 1972 the then Minister for Irrigation K L Rao proposed a 2640 kilometer long link between the Ganges and Cauvery rivers.  In 1974 plans were proposed for the Garland canal. In 1982 the National Water Development Agency was set up to carry out surveys of the links and prepare feasibility studies.

The river interlinking project is considered the brainchild of the NDA government. In October, 2002, the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had formed a task force to get the project going against the backdrop of the acute drought that year. A Centre-appointed task force had in a report recommended division of the project into two– the Peninsular component and the Himalayan component.

The Peninsular component– involving the rivers in southern India– envisaged developing a ‘Southern Water Grid’ with 16 linkages. This component included diversion of the surplus waters of the Mahanadi and Godavari to the Pennar, Krishna, Vaigai and Cauvery.

The task force had also mooted the diversion of the west-flowing rivers of Kerala and Karnataka to the east, the interlinking of small rivers that flow along the west coast, south of Tapi and north of Mumbai and interlinking of the southern tributaries of the river Yamuna.

The Himalayan component envisaged building storage reservoirs on the Ganga and the Brahmaputra and their main tributaries both in India and Nepal in order to conserve the waters during the monsoon for irrigation and generation of hydro-power, besides checking floods.

The task force had identified 14 links including Kosi-Ghagra, Kosi-Mech, Ghagra-Yamuna, Gandak-Ganga, Yamuna-Rajasthan, Rajasthan-Sabarmati, Sarda-Yamuna, Farakka-Sunderbans, Brahmaputra-Ganga, Subernarekha-Mahanadi, and Ganga-Damodar-Subernarekha.

The task force had also concluded that the linking of rivers in the country would raise the irrigation potential to 160 million hectares for all types of crops by 2050, compared to a maximum of about 140 million hectares that could be generated through conventional sources of irrigation.

The fate of the ambitious Rs 5,00,000 crore project proposing linkages between major rivers by the year 2016 has remained a virtual non-starter and the detailed project report (DPR) is in cold storage. The NRLP, if and when implemented, will be one of the biggest interbasin water transfer projects in the world.

Former president APJ Abdul Kalam had said good water management is needed to control floodwater and channel it for use during non-monsoon period and in drought-prone areas. In one of his speeches delivered in 2010 he spoke supporting the project. Kalam said interlinking of rivers would provide water to 86 drought-affected regions in the country. “The distribution of flood water through interlinking rivers with water bodies will provide water to drought-prone areas. Every year we receive millions of litres of water and most of it flows down to the sea while we face a water crisis. The water management will also help us in controlling water calamities, which every year claim many lives and destroy properties worth crores of rupees,” he said.

Giving the example of the 9% agriculture sector growth rate in Gujarat, Kalam said, “Water conservation and network of interlinking water bodies made the state record the highest growth rate compared to the rest of the country,”

Critics have alleged that the environmental impact of these projects would be extreme. Diverting water from so many rivers would have a serious impact on the mangroves of the coastal regions and hence on fish stocks, that extra irrigation will cause salt levels to rise and that the project will take precious, and disputed, water from Bangladesh international problems.


One Response to “ SC gives green signal to interlinking of rivers project ”

  1. varadananjayan

    Congrdulations!The supreme court bench in a landmark order has appointed a high power committee to take up the project of inter-linking of Indian Rivers.It will be a boon for India if the brainchild of Dr.K.L.Rao is taken up for execution.


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