The river-linking plan, which involves building of dams and canals, is an avoidable misadventure | opinion | Hindustan Times
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The river-linking plan, which involves building of dams and canals, is an avoidable misadventure

The presumed role of dams and canals in the mitigation of the ill effects of floods and droughts is exaggerated. For example, Maharashtra has more than 1,800 of the total of 3,200 large dams in the country yet it is one of the most drought-affected states.

opinion Updated: Oct 02, 2017 16:56 IST
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A man fishes in the Ken river in Bundelkhand, Madhya Pradesh. The environment ministry has given the final approval for the Ken-Batwa river linking project. (Vipin Kumar / HT PHOTO)

The deadlock between Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh over the ambitious Ken-Betwa river interlinking project has been resolved, MINT reported last week. What are we up to when we talk of the inter-linking of rivers (ILR)? More dams and canals to transfer water from one river into another, based on unscientific and unnatural principles, not to mention bad economics and the adverse social and environmental impact.

We presume that water flowing in a river to the seas is a ‘waste’ and that there are ‘water-surplus’ rivers, which could be transferred to another ‘deficit’ rivers. It has also been claimed that the so called inter-linking would also rid the nation of the scourge of floods and droughts.

This is a wrong assessment since it goes against the critical and essential water cycle and the key role that the rivers play in it. Rivers are diverse because of their varied catchments. In India, there are 14 major river basins ranging from the Ganga basin (862,769 sq km) to river Subarnarekha (19,300 sq km). Each of these river basins big or small is an ecosystem with its own hydrology, geology, biology and ecological functions whose integrity must remain inviolate.

As regards the presumed role of dams and canals in the mitigation of the ill effects of floods and draughts, it is a matter of record and experience that Maharashtra with more than 1,800 of the total of 3,200 large dams in the country remains one of the most drought-affected states?

The Hirakud dam over Mahanadi in Odisha, which was built to control floods, has been the cause of massive flooding downstream. Experience indicates that while dams do stop low level floods, which otherwise are a boon to the farmers. These, in fact, turn high level floods into devastating ones through sudden and massive water releases.

In short, ILR, which entails construction of large number of dams and canals criss-crossing the nation, is an avoidable misadventure.

Manoj Misra is convener, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan

The views expressed are personal