India is going to divert water from its rivers to tackle a severe drought, reports BBC quoting Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti.
Bharti said that transferring water, including from major rivers like the Brahmaputra and the Ganges, to drought-prone areas was now her government’s top priority.
According to the BBC report, at least 330 million people of India are affected by drought, which is taking place as a heat wave extends across much of the country, with temperatures in excess of 40C.
It says the Inter Linking of Rivers (ILR) has 30 links planned for water-transfer, 14 of them fed by Himalayan glaciers in the north of the country and 16 in peninsular India.
Environmentalists have opposed the project, arguing that it will invite an ecological disaster but the Supreme Court has ordered its implementation.
“Interlinking of rivers is our prime agenda and we have got the people’s support and I am determined to do it on the fast track,” BBC quotes Bharti as saying.
She said the government was going ahead with five links of the rivers now and the first one, the Ken-Betwa link in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh was going to start any time now.
“And then we will have the Damnaganga-Pinjal interlink which will sort out the Mumbai drinking water facility,” the minister said.
According to Bharti, the river-linking project will be the first in Indian history since independence in 1947.
She said there were also other projects aimed at supplying water for irrigation and drinking in the next few years and the ILR was a long-term scheme.
BBC says India is facing one of its worst droughts following two consecutive bad monsoons.
Of its 29 states, nearly half were reported to have suffered from a severe water crisis this dry season with Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh being the worst-hit ones.
The central government has had to send trains carrying water to the worst affected places.
BBC says India has faced a water crisis for years with its ground waters having been depleted to alarming levels, mainly because of unsustainable extraction for agriculture and industries.
“The water crisis will be there [in the future] because of climate change but through this [inter linking of rivers] we will be able to help the people,” it quotes Bharti saying.
“The public has welcomed it and they are happily ready to be displaced,” she added.
Critics say the project is not viable financially, environmentally or socially. The government has also been accused of granting environmental clearances without proper assessments.
“It is even more impossible in the context of climate change as you don’t know what will happen to the rivers’ flows,” Himanshu Thakkar of the South Asia Network for Dams, Rivers and People was quoted as saying.
“The project is based on the idea of diverting water from where it is surplus to dry areas but there has been no scientific study yet on which places have more water and which ones less,” he said
The government says the scheme will irrigate 35,000 hectares of land and generate 34,000 megawatts of electricity.
The report says Bharti’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) campaigned for the project when it was in power in the 1990s. But it lost elections to the Congress party which did not seem keen on the scheme.
In 2012, however, when the Congress-led coalition was still in power, the Supreme Court ordered the government to implement the project in a “time-bound manner”.
Source: Bd news24