[Solved] The interlinking of revivers can provide viable solutions to the multi-dimensional inter-related problems of droughts, floods, and interrupted navigation. Critically examine (UPSC GS-1 Mains 2020)

Interlinking of rivers pictures moving water from water ‘surplus’ basins where there is flooding to water ‘deficit’ bowls where there is dry season/shortage through between bowl water move projects.

  • The northern fields of India are enriched with excess water because of the presence of enduring streams beginning from the Himalayas.
  • Southern and western India for the most part observers dry spell, as this district is depleted via occasional streams whose water level to a great extent relies upon the Indian rainstorm.
  • The interlinking of rivers can give feasible answers for the multi-dimensional between related issues of dry spells, floods and intruding on route.
  • The National Perspective Plan (NPP) introduced the improvement of water assets through the between bowl move of water and the moving of water from water-surplus bowls to water-deficiency bowls.
  • Ken-Betwa connect project (KBLP), Damanganga-Pinjal interface project, Par-Tapi-Narmada connect undertaking and Godavari-Cauvery interface project are four need joins recognized for arrangement of Detailed Project Reports (DPR) as per the Peninsular Rivers Component under the NPP.
  • Interlinking of streams, thusly, between bowl water move will bring about 35 million hectares of extra water system. The execution will raise the last water system potential from 140 million hectares to 175 million hectares and work with the age of 34000 MW of hydropower, with other significant advantages like flood control, route, water supply, fisheries, saltiness the executives and contamination control and so forth

Advantages of Interlinking

  • India receives most of its rain during monsoon season from June to September, most of it falls in northern and eastern part of India, the amount of rainfall in southern and western part are comparatively low. It will be these places which will have shortage of water. Interlinking of rivers will help these areas to have water throughout the year.
  • This will cut farmers dependence on monsoon rains by bringing millions of hectares of cultivatable land under irrigation.
  • Crop productivity would increase and so would revenues for the State.
  • Even one bad monsoon has a direct and debilitating economic impact.
  • The river linking project will ease the water shortages in western and southern India while mitigating the impacts of recurrent floods in eastern India.
  • The Ganga Basin, Brahmaputra basin sees floods almost every year. In order to avoid this, the water from these areas has to be diverted to other areas where there is scarcity of water. This can be achieved by linking the rivers. There is a two way advantage with this – floods will be controlled and scarcity of water will be reduced.
  • Simultaneous floods and droughts continue to wreak havoc, destroying the lives and livelihoods of millions.
  • India needs clean energy to fuel its development processes, and river water can be leveraged for this.
  • Fulfilling water needs impact socio-economic life of people which will help end poverty.
  • Need for interlinking of rivers to prevent inter-state water disputes.
  • Potential benefits to transportation through navigation, as well as broadening income sources in rural areas through fishing.

What could be the possible adverse effects of Inter-River Linking Plan?

Ecological Costs:

  • Water scientists and Environmentalists have remarked that the water flowing into the sea is not waste. It is a crucial link in the water cycle. With the link broken, the ecological balance of land and oceans, freshwater and sea water, also gets disrupted
  • It is feared that diversion of water from the Brahmaputra and the Ganges, which provide 85% of the country’s fresh water flow in the dry season, would result into an ecological disaster.

Economic Costs:

  • As this project is of massive estimated cost, a long term planning and a sound financial simulation are required to meet the standard for such proposals.
  • The huge expenditure of the project and the maintenance costs associated with the dams, canals, tunnels, and captive electric power generation will involve huge financial burdens.
  • This may generate fiscal problems that are difficult to handle.
  • This certainly requires financial assistance from the private sector as well as global capital agencies.
  • Mobilization of global capital may ultimately entail the risk of destroying social welfare measures.

Environmental costs

  • It will result in massive diversion of forest areas and submergence of land leading to deforestation and soil- erosion. (For example The Ken-Betwa link project puts in danger over 4,100 hectares of forest land or 8% of the Panna National Park).
  • There will be destruction of rivers, aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity, fisheries and groundwater recharge.
  • Possible downstream impacts, salinity ingress, pollution concentration, and increased methane emission from reservoirs are other adverse repercussions.
  • Scientists are also of the view that river diversion may bring significant changes in the physical and chemical compositions of the sediment load, river morphology and the shape of the delta formed at the river basin.
  • It could most likely create trigger points of natural disasters like landslides, earthquakes etc. as seen in case of Koyna dam and Tehri dam.

Legal costs:

  • Domestic and regional geo-politics play a pivotal role on the discussions on ILR. As of now, there is no mechanism as of now to deal with matters concerning inter-basin transfers. There are also important institutional and legal issues to be sorted out.
  • Each of the 30 schemes of the ILR is supposed to get through several statutory, legal and procedural steps.

Social Costs:

  • Reconstruction and rehabilitation due to displacement is not an easy task as seen before.
  • The construction of reservoirs and river linking canals in the peninsular component alone expect to displace more than 5, 83,000 people and submerge large areas of forest, agriculture and non-agriculture land.
  • It is likely to create social unrest/psychological damage and cultural alienation due to forced resettlement of local indigenous tribal community.

Political Implications:

  • Water being a state subject, the ILR plan further complicates existing water sharing and management problems between the riparian states.
  • Some of the ILR schemes have international implications, which may create strained relationship with neighbouring countries like Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh.

Way Forward:

  • The biggest, cheapest, most benign, possibly fastest and most decentralized storage option for India is the groundwater
  • Invest in water conservation, more efficient irrigation and better farm practices.
  • Recycling of water for internal usage as that of Israel.
  • We need a mandatory enforceable river policy aimed at treating rivers as national treasure.
  • Accumulation of silt in huge quantities, particularly the Ganga and its tributaries. These rivers need to be desilted.
  • River linking in the south and other parts which was undertaken in the past has been going well so such model needs to be taken forward.
  • Planting trees on the river banks is one way of bringing life back to the rivers.
  • Forest catchments will need to be restored, wastewater from industries and towns will need to be treated, sand mining need to be stopped.

The river-linking project is an incredible test and a chance to address the water issues emerging out of environmental change. The drawn out answer for water shortage lies in making the IRL project work by building an organization of dams and channels across the length and expansiveness of the country. Nonetheless, interlinking needs to occur after an itemized concentrate so that doesn’t make any issue the climate or sea-going life.

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