Note: Now it is clear that it was the recommendation of the National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER) to set up National Commission for Basin management that inspired the Prime Minister's Office to announce Ganga River Basin approach.
Based on studies, the NCAER has estimated that the cost of the interlinking of rivers (diversion of rivers) project would be Rs 4.44 lakh crore (at 2003-4 price). One wonders whether or not NCAER has included the cost of environment destruction or has remained consistent by externalizing the cost of ecological collapse like Aral Sea.
In the foreword to this 135 page study, Suman K. Bery, Director General, NCAER notes, "Impact of increased irrigation intensity and hydro electric power generation is considered while evaluating the impacts. Economic impact of certain benefits such as mitigation of drought and floods to a certain extent, increased revenue/income from fishing, picnic site and amusement park are not taken into consideration."
The NCAER is of the view that the programme would take nearly 35-40 years. NCAER was asked to study the "Economic Impact of Inter-linking of Rivers Programme" The abstract of its study reads, "River interlinking is a major programme endeavour to create additional storage facilities and move water from watersurplus regions to drought-prone ones through inter-basin transfers. It is expected to provide additional irrigation in about 35 million hectare".
The study team included Devendra Kumar Pant (Project Leader), S. K. N. Nair, Khursheed Anwar Siddiqui, Poonam Munjal, Mrinalini Kaur Sapra, Nupur Pande, Tara Rawat and Prabuddha Ghosh. Project Review Committee comprised of Bery and Hari K. Nagarajan.
The study submits, "Construction of storage dams in India is indispensable for conservation of excess monsoon flows to meet the growing demand for water. Till date, a total of about 174 BCM of built-up storage had been created. However, total built-up storage created in India is not big in comparison to the built-up storage capacities created in other parts of the World. Kariba dam in Zimbabwe and Aswan dam in Egypt has a storage capacity of 180.6 BCM and 168.9 BCM of water respectively. The interlinking of rivers (ILR) programme is a major endeavour to create additional storage facilities and transfer water from water-surplus regions to more drought-prone areas through inter-basin transfers. Surplus water transfer is hypothesised both at intra- and inter-basin levels. It is expected to provide additional irrigation in about 30 million hectares and net power generation capacity of about 20,000 to 25,000 MW."
It argues that "Globally, there are a number of examples of inter-basin transfers: the US transfers 45 BCM this way and has plans to add 376 BCM; China has a scheme under implementation, which will transfer about 48 BCM" and cites the experience of Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Indira Gandhi Canal Project (IGCP), Colorado River Canal System and Three Gorges Dam are some projects in India and World who confirms this. Irrigation is a crucial input for agriculture growth.
Although myths such as "The Bhakra dam enabled Punjab and Haryana to register faster growth and reduce poverty substantially" has been exposed, the study seems to remain caught in a time warp.
NCAER study notes that tThe cost of the overall ILR programme has been estimated by the task force/NWDA as Rs 5,60,000 crore at 2002-03 prices. This estimate suffers from two infirmities. First, the cost of 30 links has been taken, whereas there are only 29 links. Jogigopa–Tista–Farakka (JTF) is an alternative link to Manas–Sankosh–Tista–Ganga (MSTG) and only one of these two links will be constructed. Therefore, new aggregated cost of entire programme with MSTG link is pitched at Rs 4.44 lakh crore (at 2003-4 price). This estimate too is admittedly based on 10 years time horizon!
The study disputes the Supreme Court suggestion of completing the interlinking of rivers by 2016 for completion of project and admits by citing inter-state political issues and agreement between states and neighbouring countries that was completely ignored by the court and the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Water Resources. It is high time all arms of the government resisted the might of industry bodies like FICCI that are bulldozing the mega project down the nation throat and did some introspection to invest their imagination to more doable initiatives.
Study on Inter-Linking of Rivers’ Programme
National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) has conducted a study on the economic impact of inter-linking of rivers’ programme and submitted its report in April, 2008. The conclusions/ recommendations given by NCAER in its report mention various benefits of Interlinking of river programme such as additional benefits of irrigation & Power, increase in growth rate of agriculture, growth of direct & indirect employment, improvement in the quality of life of people in rural areas and mitigation of floods & drought.
The recommendations also include certain action points like setting up National Commission for Basin management, improving cost recovery from irrigation projects & formation of Water Users Association. At present, no interlinking project under National Perspective Plan (NPP) is under implementation. Therefore, the stage has not come for taking decision on the action points suggested in the report.
This information was given by the Minister of State for Water Resources, Jai Prakash Narayan Yadav in response to a question by A. Elavarasan in the Rajya Sabha today.
February 17, 2009
Ministry of Water Resources
Press Information Bureau
Government of India
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