Title: Is Interlinking of Rivers Project through inter- basin regional water transfer a possible remedy for solving water crisis in India? A Critique of the National Water Policy in India
Author(s): Nidhi Pasi
Affiliation: Syracuse University
Presented At: STiS 2008
Primary Topic Area: Water Policy
Interbasin water transfer (or regional water transfer) is an attempt to redistribute water from “surplus” to “deficit” zones within the country. It has been argued as a permanent solution to the ‘paradox of floods and drought’ within the country and will also provide water for irrigation and power generation. The given Interlinking of Rivers project in India envisions linking 37 rivers of 20 major basins in the country through 31 links and canals. However, several questions have been raised as to the viability of the project and also its rationale. Major issues raised and debated have been technical (identification of surplus and deficient river basins), environmental (rehabilitation of the ecosystem), social (rehabilitation and resettlement of the displaced people), legal (sharing of water), ethical/ spiritual (associate values, beliefs and cultural contexts) and financial. These concerns make it difficult to determine when water transfer can be justified as desirable. Given this scenario, I will outline adoption of interbasin water transfer as a water management policy for the country’s water resources, its current status and future implications. The paper also examines the past like schemes of large scale water transfer projects within the country and around the world which either resulted in ecological disasters or relatively short term benefits; and the need for India to learn from these past failures. The paper calls for a fundamental change the thinking and attitude towards water management in the country with greater emphasis on institutional change, decentralization, use of local knowledge and public participation.