Interlinking of Rivers in India: Merits, Demerits & features

Interlinking of Rivers project is an idea to transfer water from surplus river basins to ease the water shortages in western and southern India. It comprises of 30 links to connect 37 Himalayan and peninsular rivers. It is a proposed large scale civil engineering project that aims to link Indian rivers by a system of canals and reservoirs.Interlinking of Rivers

Features of River Interlinking Project

Interlinking of River Project is supposed to

  • Diminish water scarcity in western and peninsular India
  • Help in irrigation and storage as a large Indian agriculture is rainfall dependent.
  • Mitigate droughts and floods
  • Reduce diversity between the water surplus and water scarce parts of India
  • Will create employment
  • Will help in socioeconomic development of people.

Also read : Western Ghats: Geographical features, biodiversity and its conservation 

Merits of Interlinking of Rivers

  1. The elevation of peninsular India is higher in comparison of northern plains. The water needs to be pumped from latter to former. This requires huge pumps and power requirements.
  2. Construction of dams will be needed on proposed links. This will reduce natural flow, create barrier in free migration of species and harm the ecological ecosystem of the river.
  3. Proposed small hydro dams will become unsustainable due to siltation.
  4. Development of canals will cause increase salinity and also create waterlogged regions around it as seen in Indira Gandhi canal in Rajasthan.
  5. The glaciers are shrinking, this raises doubts about the viability of this project.
  6. The project will involve more than 5 lakhs crore of rupees which is more than 25% of India’s budget, this raises question about the financial viability of the project.
  7. Development of tanks and developing new irrigation techniques such as drip and sprinkle irrigation along with water harvesting techniques will require low capital investment and land.
  8. The project could bring prosperity in dry regions as seen in Rajasthan due to Indira Gandhi canal.
  9. It will control regular floods in Bihar and Assam. DVC is one of the successful multipurpose project and this supports the benefits of Interlinking of Rivers project

The forward approach could be to develop few links which show highly positive impact in terms of improvements with proper Environmental Impact Assessment  to access the social and environmental due to such projects and promote alternative methods to augment water resource management in water scarce regions.

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Demerits of Rivers Interlinking

  1. Displacement of people due to ILP which might cause mental trauma, stress in life, loss of culture etc
  2. Exorbitant amount of project might lead to neglect of other social sectors such as education, agriculture, health etc
  3. Loss of biodiversity leading to loss of flora and fauna which might hamper food cycle and food web
  4. Reluctance of states to co operate in the project and denial of sharing of river water due to vote bank politics Ex : the recent dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka is a testimony of this fact.
  5. Submergence of land might occur.

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The wisdom of extending irrigation facilities to the drier areas, instead of promoting watershed management for increasing food production could be disastrous.


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