While following news on Floods across Northern and Eastern part of India, I interacted with many people on the various forums. There have been quite a few comments that were politically driven but then there were quite a few which stood real merit. One such observation by one participant is to inter-connect the rivers across India. Indeed a good point that stands a merit to be considered, but needs to be critically reviewed for impact on the Ecological Sensitivity and Balance.
Benefits that would be derived from the Project to Inter-connect rivers can be well listed as -
- Rain Water would not just drain out and can be Harvested in the small and mid-sized damns that would be built to store and divert the water.
- Some of the Dams may be designated for Hydel Power Projects, thus generating electricity that can address the electricity shortage problem to some tune
- Project on Dams as well as Power generation would help generate jobs across the country
- Plantation projects should be considered for ensuring that the deforestation caused by building dams does not bring in ecological dis-balance. These Plantation farms need to be located at the periphery of the water catchment area of the dams
- Human as well as Wild-life being displaced due to these projects need to be rehabilitated to newer areas in a fashion that they do not load the existing habitats and do not unbalance the ecology
- Clear rules to be set out for Water distribution from these dams to the original course of the river and the diversion canals as created
- Periphery of 5 kms around the catchment area of the dams to be declared as Eco-Sensitive and NO-Development Zone. Human Habitat must be prohibited in those areas
Additional Steps that would be beneficial and need to be taken should be with regards to the Study that needs to be conducted to ascertain the old course and the new course of a river that is was following earlier and is now following. This would help in ensuring that any human habitat on or around the old course is moved out from there. We have already witnessed that when flooding occurs, rivers do change their course and shift to the older one along with the newer. E.g. Kosi Floods in Bihar couple of years back and the Alaknanda as well as Bhagirathi in Uttarakhand during the recent floods there.
Considerations and the Problem Areas that would need to be addressed during the project would include but not necessarily be limited to -
- Interconnect for the rivers would require Dams to be built to divert the water. This would lead to the extended coverage of human habitation as well as forests
- Displaced Villages would need Rehabilitation and that may cost more load on existing villages or the forests
- Interconnects would traverse though various Villages and Forests, another reason why the displacement would be more
- Interconnects would change the ecological balance in the Forests as the animals would suddenly find a new development that they would need to adjust. There had been a case where couple of Elephants lost their lives due to one such development
- States owning the Dams withing their territory would regulate the water they release to the interconnect as they would like to ensure that the people of that state would get enough supply before the water is released - More stories of Karnataka - Tamil Nadu sorts
- When the upstream states would see heavy rains and the water levels there would rise, they would certainly open the barrage to let the water pass through to the downstream state, that may save them from the flood, but the downstream state would face flood situations as the people there would not be prepared for they may not witness as much rain....Regular Feature between Haryana and Delhi...
So to sum it all, the Interconnect River Project would need a very careful and elaborate study and planning. including -
- Villagers who would be impacted would need to be Consulted as well as Compensated. Buy in from the Villagers would be very critical otherwise we would witness more oppositions as faced in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.
- The states involved would need to ensure that they do not end up in conflicts over water and the water sharing formula as coined at the start of the Project are honored
- Upstream states when releasing excess water to control flood need to communicate it to the downstream states so that the damage assessment is well taken care of by the down stream states and the damages are contained with timely mitigation steps
- Last but not the least, the Involved officials would need to ensure that they RESPOND to the MET Department Notes and Warnings to ensure timely response and communication within the administrative wings. This will help reduce the overall damage that may be caused.
Update: ET Article link added below -
Though the Dam is pegged to be lasting only for 61 years, the last slide of the Presentation on ET highlights some of the benefits as being derived as mentioned in the article above