[Answered] “India faces the dual whammy of droughts and floods.” In light of this discuss the importance of river inter-linking in India.

Demand of the question
Introduction. Contextual Introduction.
Body. Importance and advantages of Interlinking rivers. Issues of Interlinking rivers.
Conclusion. Way forward.

India has limited water resources. Every year India face situation of floods and droughts in different parts. The interlinking of river project can resolve this issue. It is a geo-engineering project, which aims to link two or more rivers by creating a network of manually created canals. It is based on the concept of diverting surplus water in some rivers to deficit rivers by creating a network of canals to interconnect the rivers.

Importance and advantages of interlinking River project:

  1. Agricultural Crisis: Linking of rivers will reduce dependence of farmers on uncertain monsoon rains. It will provide irrigation to many areas. The land under irrigation will increase by about 15%. It will lead to additional irrigation of 35 million hectares in the water-scarce western and peninsular regions.
  2. Socio-economic Benefits: By creating network of canal, flood and drought problem will be resolved by channeling excess water to scarce areas. This will help in saving lives and will reduce economic loss that occur due to floods and droughts.
  3. Energy security: With creation of new dams and canals to link and store water, it will lead to generation of hydroelectricity that will help in providing energy security. The river interlinking project will generate power of about 34,000 MW (34 GW).
  4. Transport: Newly created network of canals will open up new routes and ways of water for navigation which is generally more efficient and cheaper compared to road transport. 15,000 km of river and 10,000 km of navigation will be developed. Thereby reducing the transportation cost.
  5. Water security: It will provide drinking water to many. By interlinking rivers scarce area will get more water that is usually wasted in oceans. It will also lead to ground water recharging.
  6. Inclusive Economic growth: Interlinking of rivers will provide employment opportunities. It will help in flourishing agriculture and thereby create livelihood. It would also create aquatic ecosystems which will support fishery sector. It is expected to generate opportunities in manufacturing sector, transportation and tourism through development of regions around the region.
  7. Environmental benefits: Large scale afforestation around the renewed rivers and newly drained area will make environment more green. It will help in boosting biodiversity around the rivers.

Some issues related to Interlinking of Rivers:

  1. Environmental costs: It will result in massive diversion of forest areas and submergence of land leading to deforestation and soil erosion. Further water flowing into the sea is a crucial link in the water cycle. Interlinking of rivers will hinder with water cycle, thereby disturbing ecological balance. There will be damage to aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem and will cause habitat destruction that will endanger biodiversity.
  2. Economic Costs: Interlinking of rivers is a costly project. Huge expenditure of the project and the maintenance costs will lead to huge financial burden. This may generate fiscal problems to the government which would be difficult to handle.
  3. Social Costs: River Interlinking will lead to displacement of the people. Their rehabilitation will not be easy. The construction of reservoirs and river linking canals will displace millions of people and will submerge large areas of forest, agriculture and non-agriculture land, thereby endangering livelihoods of many. It will lead to psychological and cultural damage due to forced resettlement of local tribal community.
  4. Political Costs: It will lead to increased water disputes among various states.In India, there is a history of dispute over water in the states like the Cauvery water dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu or the dispute over the Chambal River in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Some of the Interlinking projects may lead to strained relationship with neighbouring countries like Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh. For such a big project the consent at the international level also becomes mandatory.

India’s river linking project is the need of the hour which can solve dual problem of droughts and floods. Formation of River Basin Authority for coordinated action and subsequent building up of consensus among concerned States is needed. Rehabilitation and appropriate afforestation is important to make this project successful at low social and environmental cost.

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