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Inland Waterways

Inter-linking of rivers


Connecting the Indian rivers will yield many economic, social and political benefits
N. NAGARESH, MEMBER, BAR COUNCIL OF KERALA | Issue Dated: May 20, 2012, New Delhi
Tags : Inter-linking of rivers | Inter-linking of rivers in India |


N. Nagaresh 
Member, Bar Council of Kerala
Having earned the praise of the international community for the judicial activism of the Supreme Court of India in other environmental issues, the apex court of India has now given the go ahead for the most ambitious national project of interlinking rivers in the Himalayan and peninsular basin. It has issued a further direction to constitute a committee consisting of representatives of various government departments and members of the civil society.
The idea of linking various rivers in India, dates back to 1827 when Arthur Cotton, a British engineer landed in India and was assigned the task of diverting Cauvery currents to the Collerron Dams. Before returning to his native England to a knighthood and a public banquet, Sir Arthur prepared an excellent blue print for the utilisation of India’s water resources, by linking the rivers. 
Sir M. Visvesvaraya, inventor of the automatic weir water floodgates, had also dreamt of interlinking the Indian rivers. The British government honoured him by conferring the title of Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire on him. Independent India too bestowed on him the Bharat Ratna. However his dream remained unrealised. 
Sir C P Ramaswamy Aiyar who was the advocate general of Madras and then the diwan of the state of Travancore, was another pioneer of the river linking project. By the time he died in 1966 at the age of 86, Sir C P had left a legacy of many public utility undertakings like the Indian Aluminium Company at Alwaye, the Fertlizers and Chemicals Travancore Ltd (FACT) at Udyogamandal and Travancore Rayons Ltd at Perumbavoor.
However his proposal to link Godavari, Krishna and Kaveri, was not pursued by the successive governments in independent India. In 1967, speaking at Salem, C N Annadurai, then chief minister of the Madras state recalled the proposal of Sir C P on interlinking of rivers and said “If only our planners had attempted to link Godavari, Krishna and Kaveri, many of our problems would have been solved”.
For the visionary Sir C P, interlinking of rivers was not intended only to avert floods. His plan envisaged building a network of interconnected inland waterways leading to easy and inexpensive movement of people and goods between the north and the south. The easy movement and free intermingling between the people of the north and the south would lead to the breaking down of linguistic and parochial fanaticism, he believed. The north-south animosity and emotional divide would be bridged or at least lessened, he used to say.
The river linking project can bring about availability of irrigation water for 35 million hectares. Power generation can be increased to the tune of 34,000 MW. It can bring an end to floods and droughts for which our country is infamous and bring employment opportunities in abundance.
At the fag end of the NDA regime, the then Prime Minister AB Vajpayee took some initiatives towards the river inter-linking project. In 2005, the Lok Sabha Standing Committee for Water Resources published an advertisement inviting opinions and objections as to the project. The Standing Committee received more than 9,000 letters. It examined all official witnesses and 32 non-official witnesses including Medha Patkar and submitted its report.
One of the deponents, Martin D Alumkara opined: “The total estimate of the project as it stood a decade ago was Rs 5,60,000 crores. The project if entrusted with any corporate giant in the construction industry, their profit share at a reasonable estimate, will be Rs 1,12,000 crores. The construction giants will amass a profit of Rs 1,00,000 crores, which will be drained out of the public exchequer.”
Alternatively, Martin suggested to the parliamentary standing committee that utilising this sum, the government establish a Nirman Sena, a disciplined work force in the nature of our military engineering services. Employment in this force shall be purely project based and shall not entitle its members to permanent government service or the perks thereof. Such a disciplined national work force would create huge employment opportunities at least for a period of 20 years.
Rivers are held sacred by Indians. The mere thought that a Tamilian in Madurai or a Kannadiga in Kudagu or a Malayali in Thiruvanathapuram can access sacred water of Ganges in their home state, is enough to create a feel of unity and integrity. Any party which adopts this dream project will fetch for itself rich political dividends too. Our leaders in New Delhi should indeed consider this proposal.
(Views expressed by the author are personal)


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Posted By: Ganesh Kumar Khann | Bangalore | May 16th 2012 | 14:05
This article is nice.This could still be the dream of many Indians. This article would be a refresher to the people who have been dreaming about this, a remainder for many politicians and government officials . Lets wish, this dream becomes a reality.

Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017