Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday sought caution on river linking projects, which can benefit agriculture, saying these projects can also cause "irreparable damage to our ecology".
"Expert opinion will be taken. I believe we have to move with caution," the Prime Minister said at the HT Leadership Summit.
India has listed 30 inter-linking of river projects (16 in peninsular India and 14 in the Himalayan region). A tripartite agreement was signed in 2005 between the Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and central governments a for Rs 4,500 crore project that would link the Ken (in UP) and Betwa (in MP).
Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi has opposed the interlinking of rivers, saying "it can lead to an ecological disaster." Even Environment and Forest minister Jairam Ramesh has said that linking the rivers is not a good idea considering the huge costs involved and environmental damage it can cause. Environmentalists have expressed concerns that river linking can accelerate the effects of climate change by encouraging the spread of species to new habitats.
The PM, however, did not fully rule out river linking projects, says such projects can help in expanding land under irrigation.
Singh stressed the importance of fighting climate change, saying Indians should be "responsible global citizens." He also put pressure on rich nations to "bear their due share of the burden."
India has long maintained that rich nations created the global warming problem by burning fossil fuels for industrialization, and now must help the developing world pay for the costs of mitigating climate change. This opinion is likely to cause significant debate at an upcoming climate change summit scheduled for December 7-18 in Copenhagen, Denmark.
India has proposed several missions to combat climate change, including ones on solar energy, energy efficiency and a domestic climate change mitigation law.