Tuesday, 27 March 2012




What will be the advantages of the plan to link major rivers in the country? Discuss limiting factors to this plan.

Mooted in the name of Dastur Plan, by an engineer called Dastur, as a permanent solution to the problems of floods, droughts and floods security, the proposal was further improved by Dr K.L. Rao, an eminent irrigation expert, in early sixties. But the successive governments thereafter continued to ignore this long-term solution to this recurring problem of Indian economy. Since independence, crores of rupees have been spent in India in favour of short-term measures. Hundreds of crores have been spent on irrigation, drought relief, flood relief, flood control and rural poverty alleviation but the results have not been commensurate to the resources put in. Had this option been exercised instead, most of the above noted problems would have been solved long ago.

While Dastur Plan aimed at linking all major rivers into one massive canal, Rao’s plan has three major links—one in the South and two in the North. Southern Water Grid proposes to interlink Southern rivers like the Mahanadi, the Godawari, the Krishna, the Cauvery, the Pennar and the Vaigai, which would provide surplus waters of the Mahanadi and Godawari flowing into the Bay of Bengal to the deficit areas of Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry. First Northern link is proposed in the east, which aims at linking the Brahamputra, the Ganga, the Mahanadi and the Subarnarekha to benefit the water deficit areas of West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and Assam. Second Northern link proposes to interlink the Gandak, the Ghaghara, the Sarda, the Yamuna to Rajasthan and Sabarmati with a view to benefit the States like Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Uttaranchal, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Bihar and Jharkhand.

The envisaged advantages are manifold. While the devastation caused by floods every year would come to an end, the nation would also be able to use valuable resources of water to its optimum. The water could be used for irrigation, and even for drinking in deficit areas. Interlinking would also improve the level of depleting ground water. Indian agriculture would be revolutionised by improved access to irrigation, as over 30 per cent of the cultivable lands presently fed by rain would get adequate water for irrigation. Not only agricultural output would increase substantially, the incidence of rural poverty would also come down drastically.
Countries like Australia and China have benefited immensely by such interlinking and there is no reason why India cannot gain in the same way.

The plan, however, is not devoid of problems. Lack of financial resources is a major hurdle. As per one estimate, the project is likely to cost over Rs 2,00,000 crore over a period of ten years, that translates into Rs 20,000 crore per annum. Further, no provision exists in the Constitution on the role of the Centre on interlinking of river waters. To obviate any future legal hitch, the Constitution may have to be amended, evolving an agreeable institutional mechanism on the issue of the interlinking of the rivers, sharing of their waters and pooling in resources for such interlinking. This would also take care of water sharing disputes that we have witnessed in the recent past. Finally, an independent authority, having representation of all the States, is also required to be framed to take up such a gigantic task. Such an authority may also borrow financial resources and expertise from international funding and developmental agencies, if so required. In a project of this magnitude, time planning is of utmost importance and time gained is progress made.

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