21

March

0

Grand distraction called river interlinking

by Harsha Yadav

Source: Down to Earth

Last fortnight, the Supreme Court issued a diktat to the government to implement the scheme to interlink rivers. The directions are straightforward. The government shall set up a high level committee of ministers and other representatives on interlinking of rivers; the committee shall meet “at least, once in two months”; in the absence of any member the meeting shall not be adjourned; the committee shall submit a biannual report on actions to the Union Cabinet, “which shall take final and appropriate decisions in the interest of the country as expeditiously as possible and preferably within 30 days from the matter being placed before it for consideration.”

Without getting into the obvious matter of judicial overreach, let us take a careful look at what interlinking is all about and what the decision will imply. The fact is that transfer of water from one river basin to another is not, per se, either a novel or an untested idea. Every irrigation project involves such transfer at some scale. The question is what this particular idea of linking rivers implies.

The term river linking has come from the idea floated by irrigation engineer K L Rao way back in 1972. He proposed the construction of a grandiose Ganga-Cauvery Canal, which would divert floodwaters of the Ganga near Patna for about 150 days in a year to river Cauvery some 2,640 km away in the south. This idea captured imagination, as it seemed to state such a delicious proposal: take excess water from the Ganga to the water-deficit and stressed areas of Tamil Nadu.

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