Interlinking of Rivers

Linking may lead to more frequent flooding of the Betwa river

Posted by Susan Sharma on July 21, 2006

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EVERYTHING about this controversial project is low-key. The Ken-Betwa Link Project is the first link in a series of projects to build dams and canals between 30 of India's rivers, major and minor. In August 2005, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh signed a Memorandum of Understanding for starting work on the canal to link the Ken and Betwa rivers.

The 427-km long Ken river rises in Madhya Pradesh, flows through the State for 292 km and then joins the Yamuna at Chilla in Uttar Pradesh. The districts of Chatarpur and Panna in Madhya Pradesh and Bandha in Uttar Pradesh depend on it for water via a network of weirs and canals built a century ago. According to the MP irrigation department, these have all been declared defunct, having outlived their utility.

The Betwa is another tributary of the Yamuna that also rises in the same region as the Ken and flows north through MP for 232 km. It joins the Yamuna at Hamirpur in UP, upstream of the Ken. This is the larger of the two rivers.

The link proposal suggests building a 230-km-long canal to transfer 1020 million cubic metres (mcm) of surplus water from the Ken to the Betwa river. The canal will originate at the Daudhan dam, to be constructed a few kilometres upstream of two existing (defunct) weirs. In addition, there will be four more dams. All of these will be built in the Panna National Park and will submerge a large part of this protected area.

The project will irrigate an estimated 3.7 lakh hectares of additional land, give 3.3 lakh people drinking water and generate 66 MW of power. It is estimated to cost Rs. 8,500 crore. 8.650 Ha of land submerged by the dams and the canal. The canal will be linked to existing tanks and ponds en route to its destination to the Barwa Sagar, an old reservoir on a small stream near Jhansi that empties into the Betwa river. In addition to rains, Bundelkhand has a rich history of tank irrigation. The Chandelas and later rulers built a network of large and small tanks by walling up streams, drains and rivers over the last millennium. These are largely functional even now and in many towns and villages are the main source of water for drinking, washing and irrigation. Some are large enough to be used for fishing. Most hold enough water to last a couple of years without good rainfall. Most places along the likely route of the canal are already well irrigated by these tanks and other small rivers in the region, including the Dhasan river. The canal is supposed to feed some of these tanks, while draining others.

The entire stretch that the canal is to pass through is hilly and very rocky. The land slopes from south to north and from east to west. All the rivers and underground aquifers flow in this general direction. The canal will block this natural flow of water, leading to waterlogging in the southern part of the region. It will reduce water availability to the north. The canal also has to cross the Dhasan river. All this will make its construction a contentious and environmentally destructive activity.

In order to recover the construction costs, the project proposes to charge for the use of water, based on the crop grown per Ha. In order to pay these charges, farmers will have to change their cropping pattern to cash crops. Small and marginal farmers will get edged out in the process.

Rajendra Parmar, who farms some 10 Ha outside Nowgong near Chatarpur, is sceptical about the canal. The land, he says, is very well irrigated with tanks, canals and tube wells. The extra water will only cause waterlogging.

Further, both the rivers flow through the same part of the country. They flood at the same time. The Betwa enters the Yamuna upstream of the Ken. If the Ken's waters are added to the Betwa, there will be regular floods along the section of the Yamuna between Hamirpur and Chilla. Conversely, says Dr. Prakash, there will be droughts immediately downstream of Chilla. The project will not mitigate floods or droughts; it will exacerbate them.

There are enough examples of drought mitigation at the local level around the country. However, the drawback from the government and industry's perspective is that these are driven by local communities and do not benefit either babudom or industrialists. A mega project is a feast for bureaucrats, politicians and businessmen. This alone will be sufficient reason to go ahead with river linking despite objections and agitations by local people.

Hindu Sunday magazine

Interlinking of Rivers

Kolkatta "NO" to interlinking of rivers

Posted by Susan Sharma on July 03, 2006

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"There has been a proposal from the Centre to interlink the Teesta, Sankosh and Manas rivers in North Bengal and link it with the Ganga. The objective is to ensure a good supply of water to Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan," said Subhash Naskar, state minister for water resources and irrigation.

However, the state government has decided to oppose the proposed interlinking of the three rivers on two grounds.

First, West Bengal will be deprived of the necessary and adequate water supply for irrigation if the interlinking project materialises.

"This will inevitably jeopardise the agricultural production of the state," said Naskar.

Moreover, the state government apprehends that the proposed interlinking could lead to the destruction of the elephant corridors near the forest areas in North Bengal.

"A number of factors have come into play. Environmental blunders could be a possibility but what one first needs to look at is who the project will serve, how it will be undertaken and whether it is feasible at all," said VK Yadav, Deputy Chief Wildlife Warden, West Bengal.

Interlinking of Rivers

Brahmaputra-Ganga Link

Posted by Susan Sharma on June 05, 2006

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Subansiri, a tributary of Brahmaputra

Lower Subansiri (LS) Hydel Project is planned on the river Subansiri, one of the main tributaries of the mighty Brahmaputra. The LS dam is the first project by NHPC (National Hydropower Corporation) in a three-stage cascade plan, Upper Subansiri and Middle Subansiri being the other two. 

The project is on the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border in one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. The project proposes to use around 4,000 hectares (ha.) of forestland, out of which 3,436 ha. will be submerged, largely in Arunachal Pradesh, by the 116 m dam.

  • Subansiri and Dulung RFs have been listed by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) as Important Bird Areas (IBAs).
  • There is also an elephant-corridor immediately downstream of the dam site.
  • The Subansiri is one of the most crucial rivers in India for the long-term conservation of the golden mahseer.

Tipaimukh, Brahmaputra

NEEPCO,( North Eastern Electric Power Corp)  is building a 6000 cr project Tipaimukh dam again on the Brahmaputra. Tipaimukh Dam Project at the Manipur-Mizoram border  envisages construction of a 162-meter high dam.

India and Bangladesh share 54 common rivers' waters.   Tipaimukh is a power generating venture.

It  is interesting to note here a similarity in the protest against the proposed Tipaimukh High Dam both in Bangladesh and in Manipur.

  • The Bangladesh people are saying that diversion of water from the Brahmaputra river to the Ganges will definitely dry up the water in the downstream areas, thus seriously affecting agricultural lands in northern parts of the country during the lean season.
  • In Manipur, the protest is about losing several hundred hectares of irreplacable agricultural lands located along the river basin of the Barak, Irang, Makru and Tuivai rivers as a result of submergence of the lands once the Dam is commissioned.

For a f report on other projects on Brahmaputra go to

Interlinking of Rivers

Ken -Betwa Link

Posted by Susan Sharma on May 21, 2006

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The MOU for starting the canal work to link the Ken and Betwa was signed in August 2005. The canal will originate at the Daudhan Dam and four more dams will be constructed in the Panna National Park. These will submerge a large part of this protected area.

A major flaw of the link is that

" The entire stretch of the canal diverting the waters of Ken will pass through hilly and rocky terrain. The land slopes from south to north and from east to west. All the rivers and underground aquifiers flow in this general direction. The canal will block this natural flow of water, leading to water logging in the southern par of the region."

Another expert questions the the very purpose of the linkthat it will mitigate floods and droughts.

"Both Ken and Betwa flood at the same time. The Betwa enters the Yamuna upstream of Ken. If the Ken's waters are added to the betwa, there will be regular floods along the section of the Yamuna between Hamirpur and Chilla. Conversely, there will be droughts immediately downstream to Chilla. The project will not mitigate floods or droughts, it will exacerbate them."

( Excerpts from article" More Development" by Nitya Jacobin The  Hindu dated 21 May, 2006)

Interlinking of Rivers

Corbett Park affected?

Posted by Susan Sharma on May 04, 2006

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"In Uttar Pradesh the famed Jim Corbett National Park that falls under Shadra-Sahayak Canal Link will bear irreparable losses with the submergence of the elephant reserve area."

says Avinash Kalla in article at the following link


Interlinking of Rivers

Narmada issue and the Interlinking of Rivers

Posted by Susan Sharma on April 28, 2006

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I believe that the Narmada issue has to be looked at as a landmark case seen in the perspective of a much larger project of "Interlinking of Rivers in India".

Narmada basin dams took over a half century to be built. Today we have modern and faster building techniques available. Finance is no longer a problem thanks to foreign investment pouring into infra structure projects in India. If rehabilitation and environmental issues were neglected in a long drawn out project( where all concerned had sufficient time to implement the agreed steps), one dreads to think what will happen in the coming Ken-Betwa /Kali-Chambal and many other imminent projects.

As a concerned citizen, I have been reading up on the issue as much as I can. It is easy to see why the media and the common man is swayed easily by the development vs rehabilitation or development vs environment debate. It is time the rational brains of this country ( whether living here or abroad) took a more balanced view by entering into an informed discussion /debate.

There is a yahoo group atcalled Water Watch which is worth being a part of, to gain insights from various thinking people


Interlinking of Rivers

Ecology impact of river linking

Posted by Susan Sharma on April 28, 2006

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Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have jointly formed a committee to look into the viability of river linking project for linking Kali Singh and Chambal rivers. The body would submit a report within 60 days.

When asked whether there is any threat to ecology due to the river-linkage programme, Mr Mishra stated that he did hear about this, but the Non-Government Organisations should come forth with presentation as how it would affect the ecology.

(Anup Mishra is Madhya Pradesh Minister for Water Resources)

Interlinking of Rivers

Narmada Dam

Posted by Susan Sharma on April 17, 2006

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The salient features of the Ministerial Report on Narmada Dam can be read at the following link

The three member team was deputed by Dr. Manmohan Singh to visit rehabilitation sites and submergence villages consequent upon the Dam height is being raised from 110 meters to 122 meters.

Salient features

  1. Project affected families, under no circumstances can be settled before July, that is, before arrival of monsoon.
  2. Complaint about bribery in cash compensation system
  3. No infrastructure facilities in resettlement areas
  4. "Gram Sabhas not consulted, everything is happening by force."

Interlinking of Rivers

Lake Tasik Chini in Malyasia

Posted by Susan Sharma on April 05, 2006

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"Despite its overwhelming biological diversity and tropical ecosystems, Malaysia lacks lakes. There are only two natural freshwater bodies in the entire country: Tasik Bera and Tasik Chini. Most of the others are the result of manmade dams and former tin mine pools……………………..

 In 1995, Tasik Chini was dealt a near fatal blow in an attempt to increase tourism. This oxymoronic consequence illustrates the failure of consultants to recognize the delicate nature of lake ecosystems and the often-indelicate decisions of bureaucrats. Sediments from logging and oil palm estate clearance ended up in the lake, causing some sections to become too shallow to ferry tourists during the two-month dry season. Thus, boatmen requested a rise in the water level by building a dam. One year after dam construction, thousands of trees rimming the lake died due to inundation. Fish that used the lake to nest and breed were cut off; hence species such as arowana and the giant featherback were exhausted………………………..

Bishan Singh, a tireless activist in his sixties, sits on a stump in front of seventy school children seated on reed mats in the compound of a Jakun village in Kampung Putut. He has several messages for the youngsters. "Everyday we are confronted with ecological destruction," he tells the attentive faces before they embark on a tour of the lake. "Every campaign needs a hero, someone who is brave enough to take action." After 20 years of teaching and decades more working with grassroots community groups, Bishan has seen many heroes emerge. "You can do ordinary things and become extraordinary."…………….

Read the full article at


Interlinking of Rivers

220 villages to be submerged

Posted by Susan Sharma on April 03, 2006

Forum Post

Above is a site where you may send a free fax to the Prime Minister to save 35,000 families from submergence without rehabilitation in the coming monsoon by STOPPING the SSP dam from going up to 121 m as passed by the Narmada Control Authority in March.



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