Over 60% of Indian agriculture is dependent on rains which is very complex, risk prone and low productivity. The problems with rain fed farming is multifaceted; difficult to adopt modern technologies, uncertainty in output and low income which affect to livelihood of farmers that leads to rural poverty and suicides. Being an agriculture dominant country India should have proper irrigation systems to distribute and manage the river water and floods. Supreme Court of India has impelled the mega project which will link the major rivers in north and south for optimum utilization of water. As we know that our Indian farmers have been suffering with crop losses due to droughts and floods and also their villages were destroyed in floods. The Inter- linking of rivers (ILR) project assures to manage the water from surplus to lacking and mitigates the flood havoc. The project expands the irrigated land that can increase the food production and able to feed 1.20 billion of Indians. The increased irrigation land will help to adopt modern technologies in agriculture for higher yields.
The river linking project involves on Himalayan and peninsular rivers, the design consists of 30 proposed links i.e. 16 in Himalayan component and 14 in peninsular component. The grand design of ILR project will add 40 million hectares of irrigated land to India, generates the 34000 million kilowatts of electricity and the navigation controls the floods and mitigates the droughts. Government of India (GOI) has been implementing the traditional methods like small water tanks, ponds, watershed schemes and lift irrigation schemes which are helpful… but very little, so India needs a durable river management system to fulfill water needs. As we know that how the city dwellers of Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore are in fresh water stress for their daily needs and at the same time 60% rainwater is going waste in seas. To avoid the wastage and proper management of water can be possible through river and canals channeling only.
There are many positive results with ILR but the other end the project is being criticized on various reasons and making controversial for their vested interests and political prospects. They are arguing on environmental, ecological consequences, international disputes and resettlement & displacement of the project- affected people. We have new Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill to accomplish such issues and India need to learn from our neighboring countries like China, Pakistan and Brazil, how they completed the prestigious dams successfully for their national interest. Interlinking the rivers is an economic development process; most of the countries are constructing dams and channels for their national benefit and progress and ILR is same kind for our national energy, irrigation and drinking water needs of growing population. Population displacement and resettlement is a tough task, the projects disrupts the lives and lifestyles of the people who live in the affected areas. However, the government authorities must focus on methodologies and processes to involve all stake holders and civil societies to smoothen the process.
The arguments of the organizations who are opposing this project are baseless and vested, all these organizations are urban based, non-farm communities and they can’t understand the farmers’ perils. They live in air conditioned rooms, using magnificent and spectacular words to grab the public attention, they are failed to understand the farmer’s agony on water scarcity (so many farmers committed suicides for their crop failures due to drought & floods and unable to repay loans they had taken to drill bore wells) The can’t understand the perils of rural women who walk miles together to get bucketful of drinking water. Some of the political leaders are confusing and exasperating the people by giving the false interpretation i.e. this project is going to divert their own water to other areas. But all these arguments are unjustifiable and their electoral prospects only, because the ILR is a national project and this is for entire nation’s benefit and progress not for particular state.
In spite of these critiques and arguments, the ILR project is the only option to fulfill the water needs of growing population. India has been experiencing the floods & droughts and the sufferers used to get ex gratia payments from Prime Minister Relief Fund or Chief Minister Relief Fund, etc. from past 60 years. Instead of that if this gigantic project is completed… all disasters can be prevented, but it requires lot of money and time. As per Millennium Development Goals by UNDP, safe drinking water and sanitation is a human right and our central government should not consider the political limitations for water resources. The central government should take the control on inter-state rivers, the project must be included in five years plan as top priority, make involving all stake holders efficiently and this should be completed in a time bound manner.