[Solved] Not many years ago, river linking was a concept but it is becoming reality in the country. Discuss the advantages of river linking and its possible impact on the environment ( UPSC GS-3 Mains 2017)

[Solved] Not many years ago, river linking was a concept but it is becoming reality in the country. Discuss the advantages of river linking and its possible impact on the environment ( UPSC GS-3 Mains 2017)

The River Linking Project (NRLP), envisages the transfer of water from water ‘surplus’ basins where there is flooding to water ‘deficit’ basins where there is drought/scarcity, through inter-basin water transfer projects.

 It links rivers by a network of reservoirs and canals that will allow for their water capacities to be shared and redistributed.


 • This is an engineered panacea that will reduce persistent floods in some parts and water shortages in other parts besides facilitating the generation of hydroelectricity for an increasingly power-hungry country.

 • The river interlinking project claims to generate total power of 34,000 MW (34 GW). Out of this, 4,000 MW will come from the peninsular component while 30,000 MW from the Himalayan component.

 • The addition of hydropower is expected to curb the drinking water woes of millions and supply water to industries in drought-prone and water-scarce cities in south and west India

 • The project claims to provide additional irrigation to 35 million hectares (m ha) in the water-scarce western and peninsular regions, which includes 25 m ha through surface irrigation and 10 m ha through groundwater. This will further create employment, boost crop outputs and farm incomes and multiply benefits through backward (farm equipment and input supplies) and forward linkages (agro-processing industries). Along with this the project is expected to create several benefits for navigation and fisheries.

 Environmental Impact

 • Different water flows represent different ecological systems thus can lead to ecological imbalance.The full range of natural intra and inter annual variation in hydrologic regimes and associated characteristics of timing, duration, frequency, and rate of change, are critical in sustaining the full native biodiversity and integrity of aquatic ecosystems.

 • When rivers flow through forested, cultivated, and settled lands, they carry with them large amounts of silt. This silt is deposited along the way, enhancing the productivity of the surrounding lands, and finally of the coastal waters. This is the basis of the rich agriculture of the plains of India, and of the rich fisheries off our coasts. The river also pushes out the sea, which would otherwise invade deep into the land, and erode the coast.

 • In order to create canals and reservoirs, mass deforestation will take place. This will have impact on rains and in turn affect the whole cycle of life. The project envisages the building of many dams with some of them having high lifts upto 120 m. This will lead to a huge social and environmental cost.

 • Due to interlinking of rivers, there will be decrease in the amount of fresh water entering seas and this will cause a serious threat to the marine life system and will be a major ecological disaster.

 India is endowed with vast natural resources distributed unevenly across the country. National Perspective Plan for river linking was initiated with the objective of transferring water from surplus basins to deficit basins. The river linking project has many advantages as listed below– Transfer of water from surplus regions like Assam and Bihar will help in solving the perennial flood problem that plagues these regions.

  • As a corollary many drought affected areas will be able to access sufficient water for irrigation, drinking and other purposes.
  • River linking project will provide additional irrigation benefits. According to estimates, around 35 Mha of additional irrigation potential will be created.
  • It has also been estimated that around 34,000 megawatt of hydroelectricity would also be produced that could be used for irrigation and other purposes.
  • The wide network of inland navigation proposed by the government will also be facilitated by the initiative. This move will ease pressure on rail and road transport.
  • Inter-state water dispute will also be resolved to a great extent.
  • Possible impact on environment
  • It is feared that construction of big dams and long canals will destroy natural vegetation and will disturb the ecological balance.
  • The project will also be detrimental to mangroves in the delta region of West Bengal and will have implications for richest fisheries in India.
  • It will inundate large tract of fertile agricultural land and make them unsuitable for agriculture.
  • The river link project is not without its disadvantages. The environmental angle needs to be taken into consideration such that minimum damage accrues to ecology and environment.
  • Advantages of river linking project
  • Flood control
  • The flood causing Himalayan rivers will be reigned in through creation of dams that will act as barriers. The excessive waters can be transferred into peninsular rivers that face drought regularly due to failure of monsoon.
  • Increasing agricultural area
  • The additional benefits from this project include agricultural boost. The canals and dams can take water to those areas that are water deficient. In addition,  excess water in dry rivers can help in developing their basin area.
  • Power production
  • The dams can also be utilised for power production in a efficient manner. With rapid development, there is great demand in electric supply for domestic and industries which can be met through hydro power.

 Disadvantages of river linking

 Affects river ecosystem

  • Dams on rivers can disturb its ecosystem enormously by cutting off upstream and downstream areas. This will prevent river species from migrating and can threaten their survival. In addition, people dependent on river for survival such as fishermen will be impacted.
  • Depletion of mangroves and deltas
  • Mangrove ecosystems are very sensitive to water changes  especially in alterations in levels of freshwater and saline water. By diverting freshwater from the rivers, these ecosystem face dangers of extinction.
  • River liking project was thought to be considered as an impossible task when it was proposed by Datur,k.l. Rao and even when supreme court has pronounced in 2003. But now it is no more a myth it is becoming the reality. Ken betwa linking is going on UP and MP , Andhra Pradesh has already linked river godavari and river krishna through polavaram project. So advantages with such linking
  • Efficient utilisation of river water instead of allow it into oceans wastefully
  • Agriculture no more completley depending on monsoon
  • Improve inland water ways
  • Fishing activities improves.

 Challenges :

  • Huge diplacemet , rehabilitation
  • Ecological and environment damage
  • Huge amount of cost involves
  • Need sophisticated technology which we don’t have at present
  • Political will and co operation among states and political parties.

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