Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Ms. Uma Bharti, shun the disastrous Inter-Linking of Rivers plan immediately!

Ms. Uma Bharti, shun the disastrous Inter-Linking of Rivers plan immediately!

India’s water resources minister Uma Bharti, while addressing the parliamentary consultative committee meeting today, has called for fast track measures to achieve the goal of inter-linking of rivers (ILR) in the country.  

Alike all large dam propagators, she has preferred to give selective statistics to justify the benefits of the interlinking project.  And that is the reason her Ministry continues with the non-transparent ways of moving ahead with the ILR plan.

Bharti today said that the ILR would give additional benefits of 35 million hectare of irrigation (25 million hectare of irrigation from surface waters and 10 million hectare by increased use of ground waters) raising the ultimate irrigation potential from 140 million hectare to 175 million hectare and generation of 34000 MW of power, apart from the benefits of flood control, navigation, water supply, fisheries, salinity and pollution control etc. 

What she does not like to discuss is that these projects will displace millions of people, submerge millions of hectares of natural forests in a country where we are already fighting with high rate of deforestation, will contribute to more GHG emissions, create more floods, lead to death of many rivers, and many more related woes. 

She informed the members of the committee today that the National Water Development Agency (NWDA) has identified 30 links, 16 under Peninsular Component and 14 under Himalayan Component for preparation of Feasibility Reports. Out of this, feasibility reports of 14 links of peninsular component and two links (Indian portion) of Himalayan component have been prepared. Surveys and investigation in respect of seven other links is also complete and their draft feasibility reports have been compiled.  If this is the case, where are the reports?  Why there is no discussion and consultation with the people to be affected by these projects? 

River Linking projects are basically large dam projects and are good business opportunities for the corrupt politician-engineer-construction lobby who have been advocating for such a project giving false promises.  The same ministry ironically has just admitted that reservoirs of large dams are failing in maintaining sufficient water as envisaged.  Take the case of any large dam and that is a conflict bombshell. The cumulative ecological impacts of none of these dams which are operating in this nation has been done.  However, the Ministry continues with the plan in an unprofessional, unscientific and non-transparent manner.  This is simply disastrous.

In fact the release of the Ministry, based on which this reaction is written, mentions that one member of the committee has opined that the government should not ignore ecological, social and environmental cost of the project.  In my opinion, that is the best suggestion Bharti and her ministry to accede to and shun this disastrous plan immediately.

What India needs is decentralized basin restoration, recharging and management approaches that consider a host of small and medium ecologically sustainable measures involving participation of local people.  Each river is an ecological entity and tampering with her ecology would invite further disasters including dying down of several rivers.  Socio-economic and political issues too are enormous to deal with in case of such a gigantic plan. 

India’s water resources ministry should look beyond short term economic benefits if it is serious about development of water resources in the country.

Ranjan Panda

Convenor, Water Initiatives, Odisha
Convenor, Combat Climate Change Network, India
Mahanadi River Waterkeeper (Member, Waterkeeper Alliance)


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