Thursday, September 24, 2015

Linking of Krishna & Godavari

                                          KA Badarinath

Several environmentalists are already up in arms against this massive project citing deforestation and upheaval for large number of ethnic communities.

Linking of two major rivers in Andhra Pradesh, Krishna and Godavari is definitely a historic feat achieved just few days back.
This revives two centuries old debate on national rivers linking plan that was mooted by British engineer Arthur Cotton.
While eminent engineer KL Rao gave life to this mega plan, key issue here is to judiciously utilize water resources in a sustainable way to fuel a double-digit growth oriented Indian economy.
Linking of Krishna and Godavari was aggressively pursued by former chief minister NT Rama Rao and later pushed by YS Rajashekhar Reddy. With Reddy’s death in a mid-air helicopter crash also came to end this mega plan to bring water to parched Rayalaseema districts and widen the irrigation Krishna delta.
Last one year was crucial in the linking of these two mega rivers that are virtual lifeline for people in AndhraPradesh that alternatively faced droughts and flooding of coastal areas.
Credit goes to present chief minister Chandra Babu Naidu who doggedly pursued the linking plan beating all deadlines and apprehensions from the engineering community.
Krishna and Godavari linking also raked up the environment-related debate of destroying the river-specific aquatic life, abnormal lifting up of water label causing serious damage to the plants root systems, displacement of ethnic communities and bio-diversity.
At the same time, it’s a fact that over 1.3 million hectares of farmlands would get water for at least two cropping seasons in a year thereby leading to economic empowerment of millions of farmers’ families. It will also add to food security, emancipation of people in the region from clutches of poverty and gives a big boost to economic growth.
In fact, Krishna and Godavari linking have overtaken the bringing together of rivers, Ken in Madhya Pradesh with Betwa in Uttar Pradesh. Nearly 40-years after it has been conceived and over Rs 7000 crores invested, the two rivers would be linked in three months from now. To begin with the project will provide water to nearly half a million hectares farmlands and also generate power.
Several environmentalists are already up in arms against this massive project citing deforestation and upheaval for large number of ethnic communities.
When second phase of Ken – Betwa link is completed along with Damanganga - Pinjal and Par – Tapi - Narmada links in Gujarat and Maharashtra, larger benefits are bound to accrue to the economy.
When completed in phases, the national river linking plan has potential to extend irrigation benefits to nearly 140 – 170 million hectares and lead to generation of 34000 MW power, if one were to go by National Water Development Agency (NWDA). The mega plan includes linking 30 rivers with massive investment of over Rs 560,000 crore in ten years from now.
River linking was the signature project of first NDA government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The national rivers linking plan was put together and vetted by an expert panel headed by then union minister Suresh Prabhu. The present government headed by Prime Minister Modi had recently set up a special committee to oversee rivers-linking plan.
While the rivers linking plan is grandiose, one needs to balance the development needs with environment sustainability in long term. Also, resettlement and rehabilitation of displaced communities whose villages are likely to submerge in this larger plan need immediate attention.
Experience in rivers linking across Europe and US may serve as benchmark for our own national project. National level consultation, taking along the communities and then ensuring spread of benefits maximum population would definitely be a challenge but not impossible. 

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