The River Interlink Case

The 9th plan document laments that against the national per capita (based on 1991 census) annual availability of 2214 cubic metres of water, the average availability in Brahmaputra river basin is as high as 18470 cu.m while it is as low as 383 cu.m in the east flowing rivers between Pennar and Kanyakumari transfer of river waters.

NDA in its manifesto promised interlinking of rivers. The political resolution of the BJP National Council meeting at Nagpur in August 27-28,2000 also stated: We also urge Government to consider a time bound programme to link Ganga and Cauvery waters. The Sethu Samudram canal project also needs to be considered for early action. The BJP has been championing these projects and we owe it to the people to fulfill our commitments to them. Though 9 th plan states this project and in spite of being promised in the election manifesto, this project has not seen the light at the end of the tunnel. Hence Dravida Peravai General Secretary N. Nandhivarman had filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court of India, against the Union of India and others. (Writ Petition # 496 of 2001)

In his prayer, the petitioner had sought the apex court's intervention to direct authorities to initiate the implementation of this project in a phased manner and with a time frame. The feasibility reports prepared by the National Water Development Agency under Ministry of Water Resources must be made public along with the reasons for long consumption of time in initiating this project, the petition prays. The petition also seeks details of the total funds spent by Central and all State Governments on flood and drought relief.

The petitioner states that interlinking Ganga and Cauvery was first mooted in 1972 by then Union Minister for Irrigation Dr.K.L.Rao, which envisaged 2640-kilometer long Ganga Cauvery link. Thereafter in 1974 Captain Dastur suggested a canal known as Garland canal. In July 1982 National Water Development Agency was created to carry out surveys and prepare feasibility reports. In September 1987 the National Water Policy stated that its prime goal is to interlink national rivers. Over all these years none of the feasibility report is made public nor the interlinking of rivers has been undertaken even in a phased manner. The petitioner states that another project promised in the manifesto of the NDA namely Sethu Samudram Project, which was conceived 141 years back, has seen 22 feasibility reports in these periods and now global tenders were called for to prepare fresh feasibility reports. Fearing such a fate will happen even to this interlinking of rivers project Dravida Peravai General Secretary Mr. N. Nandhivarman in his petition states from the ongoing deliberations for decades, it is an irony that the foreigners who ruled us interlinked Indian states with railway link, whereas in independent India to interlink rivers, create more lakes and canals were are just discussing, discussing and jettisoning scheme after scheme. 

The national Water Development agency is only collecting the data's offered by various state governments and compiling them into reports. Even to do that the agency seems to be having 2010 as the time frame to complete all feasibility studies. Moreover like previous proposals this may also be jettisoned citing similar reasons or fresh excuses. Thereafter after 2010, India may go for global tenders to make a study of this project and all will be back to square one in 21st century too. In view of this petitioner had to pray before the court to find out what is going to ultimately happen to this project. 

The project prepared by the National Water Development Agency, the petition says, has two components namely Himalayan Rivers Development Component and Peninsular Rivers Development component. Himalayan Rivers Development envisages construction of storage reservoirs on the principal tributaries of the Ganga and the Brahmaputra in India, Nepal, and Bhutan, along with interlinking canal systems to transfer surplus flows of the eastern tributaries of the Ganga to the West, apart from linking of the main Brahmaputra and its tributaries with the Ganga and Ganga with Mahanadi. The Himalayan component would provide additional irrigation of about 22 million hectare and generation of about 30 million KW of hydropower, besides providing substantial flood control in the Ganga & Brahmaputra basins. It would also provide the necessary discharge for augmentation of flows at Farakka required interalia to flush the Calcutta port and the inland navigation facilities across the country.

Peninsular Rivers Development

This component is divided into four major parts.

  1. Interlinking of Mahanadi-Godavari-Krishna-Cauvery rivers and building storages at potential sites in these basins. This is the major interlinking of the river systems where surpluses from the Mahanadi and the Godavari are intended to be transferred to the needy areas in the South.
  2. Interlinking of west flowing rivers, north of Bombay and south of Tapi. This scheme envisages construction of as much optimal storage as possible on these streams and interlinking them to make available appreciable quantum of water for transfer to areas where additional water is needed. The scheme provides for taking water supply canal to the metropolitan areas of Bombay; it also provides irrigation to the coastal areas in Maharashtra. 
  3. Interlinking of Ken-Chambal Rivers. The scheme provides for a water grid for Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh and interlinking canal backed by as many storages as possible.
  4. Diversion of other west flowing rivers. Heavy rainfall on the western side of the Western Ghats runs down numerous streams, which empty, into the Arabian Sea.

Construction of an interlinking canal system backed up by adequate storages could be planned to meet all requirements of Kerala as also for transfer of some waters towards east to meet the needs of drought affected areas. The peninsular Component is expected to provide additional irrigation of about 13 million hectare and is expected to generate about 4 million KW of power.

Listing these the petitioner N. Nandhivarman General Secretary Dravida Peravai further states : Every feasibility study ordered from the days of K.L.RAO, The Minister if State for irrigation at union Government had only endorsed the findings after findings that favour the national dream project. The 33,600 crore project linking peninsular rivers could first be taken up. Or Himalayan component can be taken up. Or links within states and agreeable states could be taken up. Yet there is no good news from the seats of power, and farmers of this country who alone are a majority in our agrarian economy are aghast at the neglect of this national project. 

While rivers that flow through different countries had benefited such countries with mutual agreements on water sharing, some Indian states prefer waters to be emptied in oceans instead of benefiting fellow Indians.


More by :  N. Nandhivarman

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Views: 3401      Comments: 3

Comment Central Government should not ask permissions from states to implement this project. It should be implemented as soon as possible. Or else indian have to beg from neighbouring coutnries.

17-Jul-2014 08:45 AM

Comment National Development Vision not in our mind after independence. This will be realised when the serious of drought affect our country

saravanan n
27-Apr-2013 04:23 AM

Comment If the same proposal would have been proposed in China. It could have been implemented long back and they would have reeped full benift for Irrigation and Hydel Power. India needs strong leadership like china to take up such large projects with courage and determination.unfortunately we are pluralistic and a fedral structure democracy where in inter state politics and reginol parties have become a deterent for such national projects. If only national parties take up this and win mandate with such proposals with absolute majority then only we can implement this magnanimous project.

29-Jun-2012 06:27 AM

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