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Ken Betwa Link Project – Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh sign river linking pact

Ken Betwa Link Project – Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh sign river linking pact

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  • GS 1 || Geography || Indian Economic Geography || Water Resources

Why in the news?

On the occasion of World Water Day on March 22, a memorandum of agreement was signed between Union Minister of Jal Shakti and the chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh to implement the Ken-Betwa Link Project (KBLP)

What is the Ken Betwa link project?

  • The Ken-Betwa Link Project is the first project under the National Perspective Plan for interlinking of rivers.
  • Under this project, water from the Ken River will be transferred to the Betwa River. Both these rivers are tributaries of river Yamuna.

River Linkage:

What is river linkage?

  • Project is a Civil Engineering project, which aims to connect Indian rivers through reservoirs and canals.
  • The farmers will not have to depend on the monsoon for cultivation and also the excess or lack of water can be overcome during flood or drought.
  • You will be surprised to know that India has approx. four percent of the water available, and India’s population is around 16 percent of the world’s population.
  • But every year, hundreds of millions of cubic cusec water flows into the ocean and India has to meet its needs with only 4 percent of the water.

History of water linkage:

  • The initial plan to interlink India’s rivers came in 1858 from a British irrigation engineer,
  • In 2002, the Supreme Court of India ordered the Indian Government to complete river interlinking project within the next 12–15 years.
  • In response to this order, the Government of India appointed a Task Force and scientists, engineers, ecologists, biologists and policy makers started to deliberate over the technical, economic and eco-friendly feasibility of this gigantic project
  • Since 2015, Indian Government has implemented river interlinking projects in several segments such as the Godavari-Krishna river interlining in Andhra Pradesh and the Ken-Betwa Rivers interlink in Madhya Pradesh.

Issues- linking of rivers:

  • political:
    • Political gain issue for party.
    • Vote bank politics so genuine demand could also not be considered like Karnataka and Tamil Nadu Krishna water dispute.
  • Geological :
    • Dispute between states like Punjab and Haryana Sutlej water dispute.
    • Issue of river origin as more demand for water share.
  • Social issue:
    • Public affected due to violence. Human life loss like recently in Chennai for water sharing.
  • Economic issue:
    • No water availability causes issues like no proper dam work, no proper agriculture in the region causes many economic lose
  • Heavy ecological cost of infrastructure: Need to build canals, barrages, water pumping facility etc. It will destroy riverine, wetland ecosystems, huge ecological cost of submergence of natural habitats of wild animals etc.
  • Can Induce Seismic activity: Northern region is already sensitive to landslides & earthquakes. Mighty construction & altered river course can further aggravate seismic activities.
  • Increased Water Pollution: Polluted Rivers will also pollute other linked rivers. Gang & Yamuna which are heavily polluted with industrial waste in its lower reaches may pollute comparatively less polluted rivers.
  • Effect on Ground Water Recharge: Now the question comes is there actually any access water even in northern rivers. The water which we call access is actually plays very important role in charging underground aquifers. Diverting natural flow will perish ground water reserve.

Advantages of river linkage:

  • River linking can reduce farmers’ dependence on monsoon rains for irrigation.
  • Help in controlling flood by transferring excess water to deficit regions
  • Help in generating clean hydroelectric power from river.
  • River linking will improve soil moisture and groundwater around the areas it will link and eventually increase crop productivity.
  • Help in increasing the biodiversity due to availability of water.
  • Provide additional revenue to states through electricity.
  • Promote cooperative federalism as interlinking of rivers will prevent inter-state water disputes.
  • Reduce migration due to the water
  • Promote tourism due to water availability.

What could be done?

  • Instead of linking the rivers, they shall be revived and renewed for feasible and judicial usage.
  • Other sources of alternatives of water retention shall be looked upon like underground water usage, harvesting of rain water, watershed management etc.
  • From the ecological perspective, maximum efforts must be put into the conservation of unique flora and fauna and the indigenous people’s sensitivity towards the issue.
  • A robust inclusion of the localities in the process shall be done as it would provide for the hearing of their perspective and their traditional “regional knowledge” would help in the solving the problem.
  • A top-down approach combined with a sound “maximum inclusion” decentralized plan would address all the social, cultural, ecological impacts and would in turn create employment opportunities.
  • NGO and activists shall take a part in this and assist the government regularly
  • As agriculture is the backbone of our economy, irrigation must be given priority. But attempts must be made to make it as foolproof as possible by considering various perspectives and addressing the various repercussions. After all, it our responsibility to protect the ecosystem we live in.

Way forward:

  • It is no doubt that river linking would help in many areas such as controlling flood
  • But before adopting any project we need to analyses all the pros and cons of project such as how it is going to effect the environment, people, biodiversity etc.
  • If the above points are kept in mind then interlinking of rivers can become a game changer for floods in India.

Mains oriented question:

River linkage is one of the most adequate step taken for reducing water scarcity but yet it has many negative repercussion, write in detail. (250 words)