Rethinking Interlinking of Rivers

Interlinking of rivers is a proposed Ultra Mega Project that is aimed to manage water resources in the Indian Subcontinent by linking various rivers across North, North-East and South India. Huge Reservoirs, Mega Dams and Gigantic Canals are proposed to be part of this rivers interlinking network. The ultimate aim of this Mega Project is to reduce floods in North & North-East India and to divert those excess flood waters to the arid and semi-arid regions of the nation like Central India, North-West India and Peninsular India where there is a huge water shortage and drought.
Written by: Sakthi S

Interlinking of rivers in India is a high priority project and is termed as “National Project” where many clearances like Environmental and Forest clearances could be easily obtained stating it’s national importance. But this is only one side of the coin. The coin has a disastrous other side which is easily neglected and negotiated by the political leaders stating the project would bring prosperity and wealth to the nation. Many Naturalists and Environmentalists disagree and are against the government for the interlinking of rivers project. This project has the potential of doing more damage that are irreversible and destructive than the good for which they are being projected as “National Projects”.
Origination of rivers date back to millions of years and nature has taken its own design and logic in the origin, flow and drainage of rivers into the seas and oceans. Not all the rivers on earth drain into the sea, many rivers drain into large inland lakes like Caspian Sea and Aral Sea. Though they are named as seas for their huge size they are only natural lakes. Nature is very simple but highly complicated to understand. It has its own reasons and explanations for which modern science is yet to find answers.

Every river is a separate ecosystem supporting hundreds of species from its origin to the drainage into the sea. Interlinking of rivers should not be considered as linking of canals. Rivers support huge life systems which will be irreparably damaged by human developmental projects. We already have a live example where diverting rivers had disastrous and irreparable damage on people and the environment.

In 1950s & 60s rivers flowing into the Aral Sea in the former Soviet Union (USSR) were diverted into the arid regions of the nation for irrigation & agricultural purposes. Over the years when almost all the rivers were diverted, Aral Sea started to dry out. Aral Sea is the fourth largest lake on earth and even though it was only a lake, it was known as sea because of it’s huge size. Aral Sea is the best example on how human developmental activities could even kill a huge lake which is as big as a sea. In 1990s Aral Sea was literally reduced to 10% of its original size and it became a dead sea with no fish at all. This led to the downfall of the local economy and the people involved in fishing and other activities in the region were left with nothing to do. On the other side of the diversion project, the river water that was diverted to a desert region to grow cotton also didn’t do well. Initially for few years it had some benefits and profits as the desert region where the water was diverted became the largest exporter of Cotton, but that didn’t last long. Over years almost 30-75% of the diverted water went waste due to the leaking canals and the natural evaporation process resulting this project into a disaster in the long run. Later UNESCO named this water diversion project of Aral Sea as “Environmental Tragedy” and “one of the planet’s worst environmental disasters”.

Now they’ve learned their lessons from the past mistakes and Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are together working on to revive the Aral Sea. But unfortunately the Aral Sea region is now called “Aralkum desert”.

Natural systems are complicated and any human interventions stating development as the reason may lead to disastrous results that will be irreparable. In India “Interlinking of Rivers” need huge land for building canals, dams and reservoirs. Many forest areas will be destroyed permanently and swathes of wildlife habitat would be submerged in the reservoirs resulting in increased man-animal conflict. Unlike many other countries, India is blessed with Natural Wealth and is one of the 12 Mega Diverse nations on earth along with USA, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Brazil, Congo, South Africa, Madagascar, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, China & Australia.

This project would create huge Socio-Economic imbalance in the nation of unimaginable proportions, as millions of poor people will be displaced and lakhs of hectares of land will go permanently under water. Nature is not a commodity to use as per our developmental requirements, it’s a wealth and our lifeline upon which all our life is dependent on. We humans don’t have any ethical right to occupy and destroy the habitats of millions of species in the country. Even the smallest ant, butterfly to the largest elephant have every right to live on this beautiful land called India. Before our emergence, all these birds and animals were roaming freely without any fear across the length and breadth of the country. Now things have changed drastically in the last 100 years. We have occupied all their natural habitats and made them to seek asylum in Wildlife Sanctuaries and National Parks.

As rightly said by Albert Einstein “If the bee disappeared off the face of the Earth, man would only have four years left to live”.

Destroying Nature in the name of development is committing suicide.

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