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From Enrons Dabhol project to Americas Iraq war, we have seen what

happens when crucial information is hidden from the public while

momentous decisions are made. Stating lofty goals and big claims of
benefits is a common strategy to gain public support, while avoiding
public scrutiny of the details. When the real details do come out, much of
the damage is already done.

Do we sense the same pattern in the Interlinking Rivers plan of mega-
projections and little information? As alert citizens, this is time to ensure
we are not being taken for a ride it is a matter of putting more than of
our GDP into a single program and drastically altering our river systems.

This booklet is an attempt to examine the process and the claims, and
square them with the facts on the ground. The non-availability of pre-
feasibility and feasibility reports has made the job tougher, but we have
gathered information from multiple sources, verifying authenticity.
Feedback and discussion is most welcome.

It is in everybodys interest to solve our water problems - it is too crucial
to be left to the manipulations of politicians. Water is everybodys


More than 3/5
of irrigated area in India receives water from wells
and tanks. About 2/3rds of 18 million hectares of irrigated area in
the United States is watered from wells or small on-farm ponds and
reservoirs. Only 30-40% of the worlds 270 million hectares of
irrigated land gets its water from dams.
At most, dams contribute to just 12-16% of the worlds food grain
production. Only 12-13% of increased food production post 1950s in
India was due to large dams!
The World Commission on Dams (WCD) estimates worldwide dam
induced displacement at a staggering 40-80 million!
More than 2.5 lakh hectares of land has been permanently damaged
by waterlogging and salinity after the Rajasthan canal project.
Sugar growers in Maharashtra , occupy only 1/10th of State's
irrigated land, but use half of its irrigated water.

Booklet compiled by
Rivers for Life- an independent research action group comprising of
engineers, concerned citizens and other professionals which works on
water issues in India with members based in the U.S and India.
For more info contact:
Website (active soon):

A Reality Check

Himalayan Component Peninsular Component

1.Brahmaputra-Ganga 15. Mahanadi(Manibadra)-Godavari (Dowlaiswaram)
2.Kosi-Ghagra 16. Godavari (Inchampalli lowdam)-Krishna(Nagarjunsagar tail)
3. Gandak-Ganga 17. Godavari(Inchampalli)-Krishna Nagarjunsagar)
4. Ghagra-Yamuna 18. Godavari(Polavaram)- Krishna (Vijayawada)
5. Sarda-Yamuna 19. Krishna (Almatti)-Pennar
6. Yamuna-Rajasthan 20. Krishna (Srisailam)-Pennar
7. Rajasthan-Sabarmati 21. Krishna(Nagarjunsagar)-Pennar(Somasila)
8. Chunar-Sone Barrage 22. Pennar(Somasila)-Cauvery (Grand Anicut)
9. Sone Dam-Southern tributaries of Ganga 23. Cauvery(Kattalai)-Vaigai-Gundar
10. Brahmaputra-Ganga 24. Ken-Betwa
11. Kosi-Mechi 25. Parbati-Kalisindh-Chambal
12. Farakka-Sunderbans 26. Par-Tapi-Narmada
13. Ganga-Damodar-Subernarekha 27.Damanaganga-Pinjal
14. Subernrekha-Mahanadi 28. Bedti-Varda
29. Netravati-Hemavati
30. Pamba-Achankovil-Vaippar
ILR is Government of Indias proposal to link 37 rivers through 30 links,
dozens of large dams and thousands of miles of canals, making it the
largest water project in the world. It aims to transfer water from water-
surplus to water-deficit areas and thus proposes to provide a permanent
solution to the paradox of floods and drought. Of the 30 links proposed,
14 are in the Himalayan and 16 in the Peninsular component.

Claimed Benefits
Besides the vision of grandeur and the solution to floods and
droughts, the project has certain specific stated claims

Irrigation of 34 million hectares of land
Potable water for rural & urban areas and industrial water-supply
34,000 MW power generation through hydroelectric generators.
Inland navigation through the network of rivers.
Ecological upgradation and increased tree farming
Sizeable employment generation
National integration

Important deadlines
Completion of feasibility studies by 2005; 8 links completed
Detailed Project Reports (DPRs) by 2006
Completion of Project 2016; 2 to start this year

How, when and by whom- A short history of ILR
1972- Ganga Cauvery link proposed by Union minister Dr. K.L. Rao.
1974- Garland Canal proposal by Captain Dinshaw J Dastur, a pilot.
Both plans rejected due to technical infeasibility and huge costs.
1980- Ministry of Water Resources frames the National Perspective
Plan (NPP) envisaging inter-basin transfer.
1982- The National Water Development Agency (NWDA) set up to
carry out pre-feasibility studies. These form the basis of the ILR plan.
1999 A national commission (NCIWRDP) set up to review NWDA
reports concluded that it saw no imperative necessity for massive water
transfers in the peninsular component and that the Himalayan
Component would require more detailed study.
Aug 15, 2002- President Abdul Kalam mentions the need for river-
linking in his Independence-day speech, based on which senior
advocate Ranjit Kumar filed a PIL in Supreme Court.
Oct 2002- Supreme Court recommends that the government
formulate a plan to link the major Indian rivers by the year 2012.
Dec 2002- Govt. appointed a Task Force (TF) on Interlinking of rivers
(ILR) led by Mr. Suresh Prabhu. The deadline was revised to 2016.
maximizing yield/hectare using any amount of water.

e.g. After the Mettur dam, farmers in the Cauvery delta started growing
two crops of paddy. But when paddy is sown in June, the SW monsoon
in Karnataka is in full swing and it is dry in TN. So theres intense
competition between states for the water. By October, when TN gets the
NE monsoon, the crop is almost ready for harvest, so the monsoon water
is simply wasted. And the 2
crop needs irrigation water again!

Making sensible choices
These form some of the key elements, along with roof-top rainwater
harvesting in cities, afforestation to reduce floods, etc. It is possible that
some long-distance transfer is needed, especially for huge metropolis
like Chennai and Delhi. However, the need is for making choices that are
sustainable, benefit the most needy, and dont damage the rivers.

The Interlinking Rivers plan should not be projected as an inevitable
national priority. Instead, it should be considered a plan that is open
to debate and scrutiny with public participation at all levels.
All reports on ILR, including the pre-feasibility and feasibility
studies should be made fully public with immediate effect.
Detailed options assessment has to be done before choosing a path.
Each individual link should be critically examined, including public
hearings, instead of being considered fait accompli.
More resources to be allocated for studies and implementation of
time-proven sustainable approaches for managing water resources
Prior informed consent to be obtained from all affected people before
embarking work on any of the links.
An undertaking from the Government that no part of any river will
be privatized.
Agricultural policies should be really oriented towards food security
and increasing sustainable production by most needy.

1. The Ecologist Asia Vol. 11, Jan-Mar 2003
2. Silenced Rivers- The Ecology and politics of large dams, Patrick McCully
3. The Feel-good Factory, P. Sainath, 2004.
4. B.B.Vohra, quoting National Commission on Floods. Land and Water:
Towards a Policy for Life-Support Systems, INTACH Environmental Series
5. Archives of
6. Rivers for Life, Sandra Postel and Brian Richter, 2003
7. Essays from River linking- A Millennium folly? Edited by Medha Patkar
8. ILR Task force website
9. CSEs Rainwater Harvesting website:
This is an important theme in water management being recognized
everywhere including government programs - empower people to take
charge of their resources so that they have the flexibility to decide and
formulate their own water policies according to needs and crises. In
many of these success stories, the user groups have been able to plan
based on their drinking water requirements, which crops consume more
water, separating water need for food security and for commercial crops.
Small is Big?
A common response to the rainwater harvesting approach is, These are
small-scale local solutions. How about the large-scale water issues? It is
a myth that these work only on a small-scale and are slow compared
to the huge projects. Watershed development is proven technology!

Such initiatives can be planned over an entire district as successfully
demonstrated in Jhabua district in M.P. The governments Watershed
Development mission worked in 374 villages from 1994-98, irrigated
area doubled to 1115 hectares, over 20 lakh trees were regenerated, fodder
availability increased by 5-6 times and distress migration reduced. The
estimated cost of treating the land was only Rs.3000 per hectare.

Planning for the River Basin Ridge-to-River?
In fact, our planning can extend to an even larger scale, looking at the
river basin or sub-basin as the unit. When we build big dams, the focus is
on the lower reaches of the basin, and the water is never taken to the
upper reaches, which are drier and have more needy people. By looking
at the entire basin and beginning in the hills to conserve water, the basin
can be developed more efficiently and equitably.

Independent studies are already being done e.g. a plan for the 155 km
long Swarnamukhi river in A.P. that dries up in summer, proposed by
T.Hanumanta Rao (ref: Let the Waters Flow by Neeti Samakhya).

Participatory planning at the basin and sub-basin level is the cutting
edge of river management, so to speak! It was adopted as the national
policy by South Africa, which is at a similar stage of development as

Why then hasnt the government take up a comprehensive assessment of
rainwater harvesting potential for even a single basin or sub basin in the
Why dont we have a Task Force take it up on a war footing?

The Changing Culture of Agriculture
Farmers have in the recent years gone for cropping patterns and crops
that require intensive irrigation and inputs. To address the water
problem, the focus should change to productivity/unit water rather than
Interlinking of Rivers (ILR) has assumed tremendous importance in our
country, with the President of India, the Prime minister, the Supreme
Court and several officials promoting it as the single panacea not only to
recurring problems of drought and floods but also to all water problems.
The proposed Water grid is also the biggest project in scope, funds and
impact in Indian history. Increasing water scarcity and crises in our
villages and cities are making us more and more desperate to see some
magic happen, at least through this project. Many politicians have even
made river linking, a campaign issue during the recent elections.


We, the members of Rivers for Life, an independent research action
group working on water issues in India present, in this booklet, several
important questions and larger issues that the civil society has raised
regarding the ILR. These are usually pushed under the carpet by the
proponents and common citizens end up with limited and one-sided
information. Whether we intuitively support the project or not, we need
to critically examine the project from the following angles and discuss it:

Is the plan based on a sound understanding of river systems?
Will the plan achieve what it claims it will?
Has the planning process allowed for sufficient scrutiny from all
concerned, and assessment of all available options?
What will be the actual cost? What are its implications for the public?
What are the lessons to be learnt from similar attempts worldwide?
Are there sensible, viable and sustainable ways of handling our
water problems?
We hope this booklet will raise these larger issues and many such in the
context of ILR and generate sufficient interest and discussion.

Table of contents

1. Interlinking of rivers an overview.1
2. Shrouded in secrecy?.3
3. The ILR Price Tag...4
4. Questioning the answers
-Permanent drought proofing and flood mitigation?..5
- More irrigation, doubling of food production from 220-450 MT?...6
-We (will) have the power!..7
-When will we learn from others?..7
-Lot of jobs- ILR and employment.9
-We will become one happy nation- ILR and national integration10
5. Sense and sensibility for water management..11
6. What should all of us ask for?...14
2 13
Rajendra Singh Water-man from Rajasthan

Can we see the detailed reports of the ILR please?

The reports are highly technical and will not be of interest to the public at large
-Suresh Prabhu, June 30, 2003

What is alarming is the lack of any detailed information and reports
available to the public though there is plenty of marketing and
emotional rallying by its proponents. Though ideally, a proposal (as the
TF claims it still is) has to be thoroughly evaluated by independent
experts at every level before even thinking of implementation, the SC
and the Task Force are talking about deadlines for completion!

A mega project of this kind needs an extensive inter disciplinary debate
at all levels and that requires detailed information. A cross section of
independent groups and experts from various disciplines have been
demanding for the reports ever since the ILR was announced. Till today,
the reports have not been released. Shouldnt the reports prepared by
competent experts, engineers and institutions be evaluated and
discussed by other experts in the country also?

A grand plan Out of the blue?
Have other options and approaches been assessed thoroughly before announcing
this project as the only panacea for all water problems? Have funds been
allocated in the Ninth or Tenth 5-year plans for this project? Has there been a
parliamentary discussion? Were all the states consulted?
The PMs address to National Water Resources Council (April 2002)
doesnt even mention ILR. Instead he said our catchword should be:
catch the catchment Its a powerful idea whose time has come, stressing
on community water bodies and rainwater harvesting. The Tenth 5-
year Plan (2002-07) doesnt mention ILR, let alone allocating finances.

The issue has been approached by starting with the proposition that
rivers have to be linked and that river linking is the best option.
Therefore, TF has been ordered to examine not its soundness or
viability, but the modalities of its implementation.

After giving the directive to link rivers, the States were asked to get
back to the Supreme Court on the issue. However, it received consent
only from Tamil Nadu (since it is the only state that is a recipient and
not a donor) and concluded that, since no other State or Union
Territory has filed any affidavit...The presumption therefore clearly is that
they do not oppose the plea. This issue has not even been discussed in
the Parliament considering that it involves so many parties and States.

Catching the rain where it falls
India receives some of the highest average rainfall among all nations. It is
common sense that the most efficient way to begin managing our water is
by conserving the rainwater in the local area. Only when this does not
meet the needs, additional water transfer from outside is required. Over
many decades, we have reversed this simple logic by promoting long-
distance water as the primary
solution and neglecting rain

Dying Wisdom, a report brought out
by CSE documents how people living
in different climates and terrains,
with different water availabilities
and crop patterns managed their
water resources. Their simplicity
belies the extent of their efficiency. In
the dry, drought-prone areas, these
techniques have worked wonders
here are some glimpses:

Sense and Sensibility and Success!

Ralegaon Siddhi, Maharashtra (Avg annual rainfall < 300 mm): Irrigation
increased from 80 to 1200 acre; 3 crops every year worth Rs. 60 lakhs.
Alwar, Rajasthan (Rainfall<450 mm): Arvari, a river that was dry half the
year, became perennial. During drought in the rest of Rajasthan, water
was available for drinking and irrigation even after 3 years of no rains.
Raj Samadhiyala, Rajkot District, Gujarat (Rainfall < 600mm): Water table
increased from a depth of 250 mts to 15 mts even with a failure of rains.
Avg. income per hectare up from Rs.4,600 in 1985 to Rs.31,000 in 2002!
Gandhigram, Kachchh, Gujarat (Rainfall< 340 mm): During 2001, although
the village received only 165 mm, the check-dam reservoirs were full. In
2002, Gandhigram topped in groundnut production in Mandvi district.

How do we catch rain? Building checkdams that prevent run-off of streams
and rivulets, digging farm-ponds, percolation tanks, johads, which store
rainwater and increase the ground-water level, and many such methods.

Power to People and their Priorities
Significantly, these structures are typically built and maintained by the
village communities using local technology, material and manpower. So
they are not at the mercy of whether or not one big dam on, say Cauvery,
will release water.

The issue is not how much water you have- It is how you learn to use, store and relate to
that water. These are the central questions that surround water management. In other
words, the culture of dealing with water is far more important than any issue of
technology. And it's only when we have the right kind of culture, that we'll find that we
have enough water for all our industrial, household, urban and rural needs
-Anil Agarwal, Center for Science and Environment
Since the 1950s, India has been the second-biggest dam-building nation
in the world, constructing more than 3500 large dams. About 85% of
Indias irrigation budget has gone into such projects. Today, with so
many dams and canals, we still grope with drinking water problems,
droughts and untold miseries, both in the villages and the cities. Still, the
ILR envisions even more gigantic-scale projects as the one-stop solution!

PIECES OF THE PUZZLE: The water puzzle is very complex and there are
many pieces to the solution. Our view is that depending on the needs
and the region, the pieces come together in different ways and we need
to make wise choices so that the solutions are sustainable over the long
term and do not themselves lead to more problems.

The bright news is that, in the past two decades, there has been
tremendous growth of sustainable solutions to water problems. They
have been recognized nationally and internationally some of them are
almost magical! and many of them combine centuries-old successful
practices with modern approach. Here are some key pieces of the puzzle.

Eri, cheruvu, kere, talai, samand A Tank by any other name

What comes to your mind when you think of a tank? A water body of a
few hundred square yards, or one that is a sq. km. large and irrigates
several hundred hectares? The fact is that tanks exist in all sizes small
and big, but more significant is the number of them 1.5 million across
A.P., Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, M.P., Maharashtra, West Bengal.

Tanks were the mainstay of irrigation across many states in India
before the British policies caused great damage. Unfortunately, after
independence, the governments continued the neglect and allocated
meager resources to develop new tanks and maintain existing ones.

Investment required to create irrigation for 1 ha by tanks is Rs.20,000
compared to Rs.50,000 for big dams, and >Rs.100,000 for ILR.
In A.P., 1.1 million ha (40% of all irrigated land) was served by tanks
in 1955. Instead of being expanded, this area has now shrunk by 25%.
1/3 of irrigated land in Tamil Nadu is watered by eris.
Less than 10% of irrigation budget has been spent on tanks!

Many experts feel that tank renovation is the real priority in South India.

A MILLION CRORES What It Means for India
Completion of existing irrigation projects alone requires Rs.80,000
crores with many languishing due to lack of funds. Renovation of
tanks, watershed development and rainwater harvesting compete for
the same shrinking pie. A massive allocation for ILR simply means
creating a black hole that sucks away all resources.
Heavy borrowing will be inevitable, sinking the country into a debt
trap. The interest alone could be Rs.30,000 crores per year.
The Task Force is already talking of contracts to foreign companies.
This is a clear path to private ownership of our water resources. The
experience with Shivnath river in Chattisgarh points the way.

A boon to the corrupt? The project is a mouth-watering prospect for
politicians and contractors even a 10% graft from the project costs
would leave the country short by Rs.100,000 crores
Financial Costs
Initial estimated cost was Rs 560,000 crores just for infrastructure
not including rehabilitation, environmental costs, so on. The Task
Force members have admitted it could exceed Rs. 1,000,000 crore.
What do these huge numbers mean? Rs. 560,000 crores is:
- 250% of the Indias entire tax revenues in 2002
- 1/4
of Indias annual GDP.
- More than twice the entire irrigation budget of India since 1950.
The implications on the economy are mind-boggling. (see below)

Rehabilitation costs
It is estimated that ILR would submerge 8000 sq. kms of land
affecting thousands of villages and towns.

Millions of people will be displaced from the most needy sections
precisely those that should benefit from government projects.
At the least, the resettlement costs should factor in at the outset.
Around 33 million have been displaced in India during the last 50
and most have not been rehabilitated, ending up destitute.

Environmental costs

50,000 Ha of forests to be submerged just by the peninsular links.

River systems will be altered catastrophically creating new
droughts and deserts, destruction of fisheries, seawater ingress.
Intensive irrigation in unsuitable soils will lead to water logging
and salinity as in the Indira Gandhi Irrigation Canal.
Highly polluted rivers will spread toxicity to other rivers.
Got the logic right?

ILR is based on the understanding that an enormous amount of water of our
rivers flows waste into the sea and this should be prevented and equalized by
diverting water from water-surplus to water-deficit areas.

Does this assumption hold water? How much is surplus?
Do the claimed benefits based on this logic make sense?

1. Permanent drought proofing and flood mitigation

This drought-flood phenomenon is a recurring feature. The need of the hour is
to have a water mission would be networking of our rivers.
- Abdul Kalam, Aug 15, 2002
Two sides of the same region
Does water surplus=flood prone and water deficit=drought prone?
Cherrapunji which receives the highest average annual rainfall in the
world suffers from severe water shortage in the non-monsoon
months. In Orissa, 12 out of 30 districts are declared flood hit every
monsoon and drought-hit every summer. Why do droughts and floods
occur side by side?

Flood relief and false security After 50 years of dam building,
flood-prone areas in India have increased from 25 to 40 million
. Some dams, in fact, aggravate flooding due to sudden
releases, siltation and breaching of embankments. For instance,
floods in the Mahanadi delta are reported to be 3 times more
frequent than before the Hirakud dam was built
. In 1978, 65,000
people were rendered homeless because of sudden discharges from
the Bhakra Nangal.

Flood control-Power Generation-Water for Irrigation- All at
once? In practice it is not possible to achieve all, because satisfying
one purpose defeats the requirement of the other. Power generation
requires that the reservoir level be maintained high. But, diversion
for irrigation will bring down the water level in the reservoir. Flood
control requires the reservoir to be empty during the monsoon
months to deal with an anticipated surplus. And if there's no
surplus, you're left with an empty dam. And this, defeats the
purpose of irrigation, which is to store the monsoon water. But ILR
stated claims for the three are calculated for the same water quantity.

How much water does India need? The National Commission
projected that India would need 973 to 1180 billion cubic meters
(BCM) of water in 2050, depending on the projects being high or low.
But according to the Task Force, India would need 1447 BCM! How
the figure was arrived at is not explained. This is 49% higher than the

5. One happy nation: ILR and national integration
Inter and Intra-State conflicts The NWDAs assessment that
Mahanadi and the Godavari are water surplus is not shared by the
Orissa and A.P State governments. The Cauvery dispute between
Tamil Nadu and Karnataka on the sharing of its waters continues
even today. Kerala, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam,
Punjab, Chattisgarh, Goa have opposed the plan so far. Gujarat,
Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Maharashtra have expressed
conditional support- agreeing to the recipient links and opposing
the donor links. Many parts within a State (for eg. Rayalseema and
Telengana in A.P and Kalahandi in Orissa ) face droughts every year
and may not agree to water being diverted to other states while they
languish in misery.

International conflicts The diversion of the Ganga and
Brahmaputra waters have raised severe objections from our
neighbouring countries which share these waters- Bangladesh,
Nepal, etc. Many experts in Bangladesh claim that the ILR flouts the
India-Bangladesh Treaty of 1996 on the sharing of Ganga waters.
Almost two dozen dams on the Brahmaputra in the Northeast are
already in advanced stage of construction and planning.
This would
leave little water for diversion to other parts of India.
A River becomes a trickle- The Case of the Colorado, USA
The delta of the Colorado river basin has shrunk to 5% of its historic
size thanks to intensive river diversions that have spelt a death knell to
the people, flora and fauna of the region. Since 1960, the river has
reached the sea only during rare flood years, more usually ending just
south of the US border in a few stagnant pools of pesticide and salt-
laced agricultural runoff.

Due to intensive irrigation in desert lands, waters have become
extremely saline. A $256 million desalination plant was set up at Yuma,
Arizona to desalinate the water in 1992. It was shut down in 1993 after
floods destroyed drains and brought in saline water. The Bureau of
Reclamations salinity control program had cost tax-payers $660
million by 1993. An $8 billion plan has been passed in California to
revive some of its rivers.

Many more cases:
Irtysh-Karaganda (Satpaevs) Canal
The South-eastern Anatolia Project (GAP), Turkey
The Three Gorges and The North- South Transfer project
The Spanish National Hydrological plan, Spains

When will we learn from others?
Schemes of inter-basin water transfer have been successfully completed
and are operational the world over. In none of these cases have
geographical changes occurred as alleged.
-Radha Singh, Director, NWDA
Large scale river diversions that have been attempted in other countries,
have proved to be ecologically disastrous and the benefits short-lived.
These countries today spend billions of dollars in decommissioning
dams and reversing damages. Also the population and dynamics of
every region is very different. Because of this, many times even the logic
of when they can do it, why cant we doesnt work because even
imagining the consequences of such ventures in a country like ours, is
too scary!

4. Lot of jobs ILR and employment

There could be 10 million new jobs- Suresh Prabhu, The Statesman
This seems a strange justification. Any large-scale construction activity is
bound to generate some employment, even if the construction itself is completely
pointless. The mere fact that an activity will involve the employment of people
cannot warrant the undertaking of that activity. Given the magnitude of the
project and the accelerated time frame, it seems likely that advanced,
sophisticated technologies will be used; and these are unlikely to be labour-
-Ramaswamy Iyer, Ex- Secretary, Min. of Water Resources

low demand projection and 23% higher than the high-demand projection
of the National Commission.

Damn the drought prone Comparing the two maps below shows
that almost all the links and their command areas are in the lower
river basins and the coastal belts (which are already irrigated or have
abundant water resources), while most of the drought-prone
uplands are not even covered. In the fig. (left), the areas in orange
denote drought areas. The ILR neglects many drought-prone areas of
West A.P, North Karnataka, Maharashtra, M.P., Kutch, Saurashtra.

2. More Irrigation, Doubling food production 220 to 450 MT
Food for rats? An estimated 200 million Indians are underfed while our
godowns overflow with a buffer stock of 62 metric tons of food grain
(FCI). Our government is exporting food grains at Rs. 5.45/ kg while our
own fellow Indians below the poverty line pay Rs.6.4/kg to buy their
food grain in fair price shops
This shows that food distribution and not
production is the primary problem.

The Myth of more irrigation = more food grain Contrary to popular
belief, less than 40% of irrigation in India is through dams and canals,
over 60% being irrigated by wells, tanks and traditional water structures!
Moreover, only 12-13% of increased food grain production post 1950s is
due to large dams!
So, increasing irrigated area does not mean either
more food grain or increased nutrition.

More irrigation or better irrigation? Indian irrigation is only 20-35%
efficient at its best i.e most of the water in canals is lost mainly due to
evaporation and seepage. Even a 10% increase in irrigation efficiency
could lead to an additional irrigation potential of
Drying up of the Aral Sea, Soviet Union

What was the fourth biggest inland sea is now mostly desert. What
appears to be snow on the seabed is really salt. The winds blow this
as far as the Himalayas.
The Aral sea started drying up when almost 92% of the waters of the
Amu Darya and Syr Darya that feed into the sea were diverted for
irrigation, industrial and water supply. The disastrous consequences
of this 1960s venture are:
o The area of the lake has been reduced to almost half and its
volume has reduced by 75%! More than 20,000 square kilometer
of salty sea floor is exposed.
o The commercial fishery that produced 40,000 tons of fishery has
almost been eliminated.
o The land and water that remains is heavily polluted by pesticides
and has led to extreme health problems like cancers, kidney and
liver problems. The economic damage is between $1.25-$2.5
billion a year just for human health, tourism and agriculture.
14 M Ha (mid-term review of the Ninth Plan). That is more than 1/3rd of
the projected claims of ILR! Though we have the worlds largest
irrigation network and second largest arable area, Chinas per capita
food grain production is 13% more than India.

Irrigation and irreversible damages The most serious problem due
to excessive irrigation is waterlogging and the resulting increase in
soil salinity, which is irreversible and causes permanent damage.
Water gets logged in lands due to poor drainage and/or excessive
water input in lands not suited to intensive irrigation.
Approximately 2,46,000 hectares of land has been waterlogged and
salinised due to the canal project in Rajasthan. ICAR estimates that
land rendered unproductive due to water logging and salinity in
India is well over 23 million hectares.

3. We (will) have the power!
Claim: 35,000MW power projection
Before we look at power generation, it is necessary to under stand what
inter-river basin transfer is all about. The terms watershed and river
basin need explanation here. In the figure, you see several small streams
joining a main river/stream in the middle. The entire area that you see in
the figure is the watershed of that particular river. Water might fall
anywhere in the watershed, but it will finally contribute to replenish this
river or stream that exits the watershed at its lowest point.

The boundary of a watershed is necessarily elevated (called a ridge) and
water flows through gravity along
the slopes of the ridge and
empties into the stream. A river
basin is essentially the river and
its watershed area together. As in
the figure, two streams that seem
physically close to reach other
empty into different rivers
because of the ridge separating the
two river basins.

Every inter-basin transfer must necessarily involve carrying of water across
the natural barrier between basins by lifting, or by tunneling through, or by a
long circuitous routing around the mountains, if such a possibility exists.
a project of this kind will be a net generator of upwards of 30,000MW of electric
power is not clear. Linked to this is the claim that the links will be largely
gravity links, with a few modest lifts. If 30,000 MW is the net generation, what
will be the gross generation and in which projects will it be generated?

- Ramaswamy Iyer, Former Secretary, Min. of Water Resources

Point 1:There are no permanent flood-prone or drought-prone areas.
Point 2: Floods and drought are not always only natural disasters.
To understand this lets looks at a flow of a river. A river has a natural
low and high flow cycle.
The low flow maintains the ground water level which in turn maintains
the river flow and sustains aquatic life. The common observance of rivers
drying up is an indication that the factors that maintain the minimum
flow of the river have not been taken care of.
What we are even less aware of is the
role that floods, which form apart of
the high flow play. In the peak flow,
sediments get deposited in the river
plains thus giving us fertile agricultural
lands. The wetlands, pools and
groundwater in the entire floodplain
The Flood-Drought mystery
Extensive deforestation that leads to topsoil erosion all of which
ends up in the river as silt and raises the height of the riverbed.
This causes water to spill over and cause floods. Since most of
the water merely runs off instead of percolating and replenishing
the water table, there could be water shortage during lean months
in the same area, thus leading to drought.

Channelisation of natural flow of water due to dams, bunds and
flood-proof embankments results in the river not being able to
burst its bank and deposit its silt in the flood plain and instead
adds up in the reservoir. 11 of Indias reservoirs with capacities
greater that 1 cubic kilometer are filling with sediment faster than
That explains why floods become far more intense and
dangerous soon after appearing to be in control after the building
of the dam or embankment.

Floods during the natural peak flow of the cycle.

Given this understanding of floods how should we manage them?

The key is to allow some land to flood so that others can stay dry.
Regeneration of the watershed and regular cleaning up of river and banks of
obstacles that obstruct the free flow, regulations to discourage new flood plain
development and encroachment and improved flood warning systems are
some ways of managing floods and being sensitive to the river too.
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