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River Interlinking and Concerns in India

  • Published
    23rd Jun, 2022
Context

Opposing the Bedti-Varda interlinking project, Scientist has shown concern about the interlinking of one west-flowing river and one east-flowing river.

  • Environmental groups in Karnataka have criticized the project to link the Bedti and Varada rivers in Karnataka, calling it ‘unscientific’ and a ‘waste of public money.’
Background
  • The Indian Rivers Inter-link is a proposed large-scale civil engineering project that aims to effectively manage water resources in India by linking Indian rivers by a network of reservoirs and canals to enhance irrigation and groundwater rechargereduce persistent floods in some parts and water shortages in other parts of India.
  • India accounts for 18% of the world’s population and about 4% of the world’s water resources. One of the solutions to solve the country’s water woes is to link rivers and lakes.
  • River interlinking projects were launched with an aim to conserve water resources in India, by making sustainable use of them.

About 

  • The Bedti-Varada project was envisaged in 1992 as one to supply drinking water by the then government.
  • However, protests gathered steam only after the former Karnataka Chief Minister announced its revival in his budget speech in 2021, at a cost of Rs 2,194.29 crore.
  • The plan aims to link the Bedti, a river flowing west into the Arabian Sea, with the Varada, a tributary of the Tungabhadra River, which flows into the Krishna, which in turn flows into the Bay of Bengal.
  • A massive dam will be erected at Hirevadatti in the Gadag district under the project. 
  • The dam will take water to the Varada via tunnels of lengths 6.3 kilometers and 2.2-km. 
  • The project envisages taking water from the water surplus Sirsi-Yellapura region of Uttara Kannada district to the arid Raichur, Gadag, and Koppal districts.

What are the concerns of the Project?

  • Unscientific approach: Interlinking of the west and east-flowing rivers among each other is itself a questionable thought. This is clearly destroying the river's natural regime.
  • Loss of Forest: The area is home to 1,741 types of flowering plants as well as 420 species of birds and animals. 
    • Approximately 500 acres of forest will be cut for the project.
  • Fisheries loss: The nutrients that the river carries with it are responsible for sustaining fish stocks, especially in the Bedti’s estuary in Dedi. 
    • The river valley serves as a corridor for around 35 different animal species.
    • The fishes and fisheries-based community in the area will affect the most and lose their livelihood.
  • Revenue losses: The construction of Dams, canals, technologies, etc will account for a large amount of funds, which will lead to a loss of revenue if the project fails.
  • Environmental damage: The Ecology of the area will suffer and species endemic to the river habitat can go extinct.
  • Lack of water: The rivers do not have enough water to transfer it from one place to another.

River Interlinking projects in India

  • The Inter-link project has been split into three parts: 
  • a northern Himalayan rivers inter-link component,
  • a southern Peninsular component and starting in 2005, and
  • an intrastate river linking component. 
  • The project is being managed by India's National Water Development Agency Ministry of Jal Shakti
  • NWDA has studied and prepared reports on 14 inter-link projects for the Himalayan component, 16 inter-link projects for the Peninsular component, and 37 intrastate river linking projects. 

Need of interlinking rivers

  • Drought, floods, and shortage of drinking water
  • Population and food security
  • Salt export needs
  • Navigation
  • Current reserves and loss in groundwater level

Concerns associated

  • Ecological and environmental issues
  • Displacement of people and fisheries profession
  • Poverty and population issues
  • Lack of technological developments
  • Inter-state political views

Some major river linking projects in India

  • Par-Tapi-Narmada link project 
  • Mahanadi Godavari link project
  • Ken-Betwa link project (KBLP)
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