River Interlinking

River Interlinking

Danube-Oder-Elbe CanalPrelims Only


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Rivers mentioned in the newscard

Mains level : Not Much


Environmental organisations from across central and Eastern Europe have criticised a major project intending to link three rivers and provide seamless navigation between three of Europe’s peripheral seas, according to a statement.

Danube-Oder-Elbe Canal

  • For centuries Europe’s rulers have dreamed of construction of a huge Y-shaped canal connecting the Elbe, Oder and Danube rivers, most of which would be on Czech territory.
  • The Canal intends to connect the Danube, Oder and Elbe rivers and thus provide another navigable link from the Black Sea to the North and Baltic Seas.
  • The Main-Danube Canal already provided a navigable connection between the Black Sea and the North Sea.
  • Several hundred kilometres of artificial waterways would have to be built for the canal, according to the statement.
  • Critics have called on the European Commission to ensure that the project be excluded from EU funding, and not be included as part of the Trans-European Transport Network.
River Interlinking

National Interlinking of Rivers Authority (NIRA)Priority 1


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Interlinking of Rivers Authority (NIRA)

Mains level : Interlinking of rivers



The Central government is working on the establishment of an exclusive body to implement projects for linking rivers.

National Interlinking of Rivers Authority

  • To be called the NIRA, the proposed body is expected to take up both inter-State and intra-State projects.
  • It will also make arrangements for generating up funds, internally and externally.
  • Headed by Union Minister of Jal Shakti, the panel includes Irrigation or Water Resources Ministers and Secretaries of States.
  • It is being assisted by a Task Force for ILR, which is a committee of experts essentially drawn from the Jal Shakti Ministry, Central Water Commission and the NWDA.

About National River Linking Project (NRLP)

  • The NRLP formally known as the National Perspective Plan, envisages the transfer of water from water ‘surplus’ basins where there is flooding to water ‘deficit’ basins where there is drought/scarcity, through inter-basin water transfer projects.
  • It is designed to ease water shortages in western and southern India while mitigating the impacts of recurrent floods in the eastern parts of the Ganga basin.
  • Interlinking of rivers was conceived more than 125 years ago by Sir Arthur Cotton, mainly to facilitate trade but it was not implemented then.
  • The proposed NRLP, now comprises 29 canals totalling 9,600 km, will involve the movement of 245 trillion litres of water.
  • If and when implemented, it will be one of the biggest inter-basin water transfer projects in the world.

ILR Projects in India

  • As of now, six ILR projects — the Ken-Betwa, Damanganga- Pinjal, Par-Tapi-Narmada, Manas-Sankosh-Teesta-Ganga, Mahanadi-Godavari and Godavari-Cauvery (Grand Anicut) — have been under examination of the authorities.
  • The Ken-Betwa ILR is India’s first such project.
  • With regard to the peninsular rivers, the Centre has chosen to focus on the Godavari-Cauvery link than the earlier proposal to link the Mahanadi-Godavari-Krishna-Pennar-Cauvery rivers.

Issues and Concerns

Ecological issues

One of the major concerns is that rivers change their course in 70–100 years and thus once they are linked, future change of course could create huge practical problems for the project.

Aqua life

A number of leading environmentalists are of the opinion that the project could be an ecological disaster. There would be a decrease in downstream flows resulting in reduction of fresh water inflows into the seas seriously jeopardizing aquatic life.


Creation of canals would need large areas of land resulting in large scale deforestation in certain areas.

Areas getting submerged

Possibility of new dams comes with the threat of large otherwise habitable or reserved land getting submerged under water or surface water. Fertile deltas will be under threat, with coastal erosion expected to threaten the land and livelihoods of local economies that support 160 million people.

Displacement of people

As large strips of land might have to be converted to canals, a considerable population living in these areas must need to be rehabilitated to new areas.

Dirtying of clean water

As the rivers interlink, rivers with dirty water will get connected to rivers with clean water, hence dirtying the clean water.

Disrupting of ecological flow

On implementation, water discharge in 23 out of 29 rivers will reduce considerably, they say. The Ganga will see a 24% decrease in flow. Its tributaries Gandak (-68%) and Ghaghara (-55%) will be the worst affected. While the Brahmaputra will see only a 6% loss, its tributaries will see massive flow reductions: Manas (-73%), Sankosh (-72%) and Raidhak (-53%). Changes in water flow and trapping of silt in reservoirs will see a dip in the sediment deposited by rivers.

Must read:


River Interlinking

[pib] Godavari and Cauvery River Linking ProjectPIB


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Godavari– Cauvery Link Project

Mains level : Interlinking of rivers


The draft Detailed Project Report (DPR) of the Godavari and Cauvery River Linking Project has been completed by National Water Development Agency (NWDA).

Godavari– Cauvery Link Project

  • The project consists of 3 links viz., Godavari (Inchampalli/Janampet) – Krishna (Nagarjunasagar), Krishna (Nagarjunasagar) – Pennar (Somasila) and Pennar (Somasila) – Cauvery (Grand Anicut).
  • This proposal to link Godavari, which is prone to flooding, and Krishna, which doesn’t have enough water, has been around for several decades.
  • While river-interlinking for the purposes of navigation as an idea was mooted by the British in India, in 1972, engineer and Union Minister KL Rao proposed the linking of Godavari and Krishna for irrigation.
  • The decades-old proposal finally took shape in the 2000s, and in 2016, the Andhra government linked the two rivers with the Pattiseema-Polavaram Lift Irrigation project, in Andhra’s West Godavari district.
River Interlinking

Govt. plans Godavari-Cauvery interlinkingPriority 1States in News


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, and Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Godavari-Cauvery interlinking project

Mains level: Enhancing cargo transport with the help of Inland Waterways


  • Union Ministry for Road Transport and Highways, Shipping and Water Resources has revealed Detailed Project Report (DPR) to take the backwaters of the Godavari up to the Cauvery river in Tamil Nadu.

Godavari-Cauvery Interlinking

  1. The DPR for the river inter-linking project has already been prepared and is in the process of being submitted to the Cabinet. It is estimated to cost ₹60,000 crore.
  2. 1,100 tmcft of the backwater of the Godavari river was going into the sea and there was a dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over 45 tmcft of it.
  3. To solve the crisis, the Centre has decided to link up the above rivers.
  4. Once the Cabinet gives its nod, funds will be raised from the World Bank or the Asian Development Bank.
  5. It will mitigate the scarcity of water in A.P., Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu.
  6. It was former PM Vajpayee who conceived the idea of linking rivers from Ganga to Cauvery.

Benefits of the Project

  1. The backwaters will be carried through Krishna and Penna using steel pipes instead of developing canals en route as suggested by a non-resident engineer from Andhra Pradesh.
  2. By doing so, wastage of water from canals could be prevented and overall cost reduced.
River Interlinking

[op- ed snap] A flood of questionsop-ed snap


Mains Paper 1: Changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.

Prelims: Ken-Betwa river linking project.

Mains level: River linking is a important topic for mains and this article highlights various issues that must be resolved before investing billions in river linking projects and also suggests solutions for the same.


  1. The government is all set to begin work on an estimated $87 billion plan to connect around 60 of India’s largest rivers; this includes the Ganga.
  2. Once complete, it is expected to help end farmers’ dependence on fickle monsoon rains, bring millions of hectares of cultivable land under irrigation and help generate thousands of megawatts of electricity.


Water Management

  1. The river-linking plan was first proposed in 2002.
  2. However, it was stalled as States failed to end differences over water sharing contracts and clearances.
  3. Work is now set to link the Betwa and Ken rivers which pass through Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

Issues involved in river linking project

  1. Water is listed as entry 17 in List II of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. The government has initiated discussions to bring the subject under the concurrent list, it may not be an easy task to achieve.
  2. If there are changes in the political dispensation in various States, the government in a State that is upstream, for example, may refuse to share water with downstream States.
  3. When there has been a deficient monsoon, we have seen conflicts arise among States over water access.
  4. Thus, a full-fledged architecture is needed to solve disputes, it would not be prudent to embark on a mammoth project like this.
  5. India is technically poor with respect to data related to the water sector.
  6. Unlike other countries, the Central Statistics Office has neither attempted nor funded studies to gather data on water tables at an all-India or State level.

Way Forward

  • Water Resource accounting at national and regional level
  1. It provides an accounting framework that enables the integration of specialised physical resource sector data with other information on the economics of water supply .
  2. It also provides the basis for evaluating the consistency between the objectives and priorities of water resource management and broader goals of economic development planning and policy at a national and local scale.
  3. This in turn improves communication between various agencies generating and using information about water for various purposes and contributes to better coordination, packaging and analyses of such information that are more relevant to the needs of water managers and policy-makers.
  4. It also makes it possible to capture direct, indirect and induced water demand in the process of economic production.
  5. It further helps in estimating the water balance situation in a region.
  • Agricultural context
  1. The government should pay more attention to its ‘more crop per drop’ mission and water-stressed regions should not become water exporters due to the crops they cultivate.
  2. There is a dearth of studies in the Indian context unlike other countries addressing the gap by first analysing water flows embodied (virtual/hidden) in agriculture products moving between the States to create knowledge on the flows.
  3. A well informed water policy will help to close governance gap.
  4. A recent study on virtual water (VW) flow assessment in respect of foodgrains indicates that though the north zone is highly water scarce, it is a net VW exporter to the highly water scarce west and south, which are net VW importers.
  5. Among the north zone States, Punjab has the highest water losses, while Maharashtra (west) and Tamil Nadu (south) the highest water savings in 1996–2005 and 2005–2014, respectively.
  6. Therefore, at a subnational scale, VW flows are not consistent with relative water scarcity.
  7. Such analysis for all the major crops at subnational levels is a must for efficient planning of a scarce resource such as water.



  • About Ken-Betwa ILR project The Ken-Betwa ILR project aims to transfer surplus water from the Ken River to the Betwa basin through concrete canal to irrigate India’s worst drought-prone Bundelkhand region.
  • The 221-km concrete canal will pass through Jhansi, Banda and Mahoba districts of Uttar Pradesh and Chhatarpur, Panna and Tikamgarh districts of Madhya Pradesh.




River Interlinking

Ken-Betwa project hangs on forest nod II

  1. The main feature of the project is a 230-km canal and a series of barrages and dams connecting the Ken and the Betwa
  2. Purpose: To irrigate 3.5 lakh hectares in Madhya Pradesh and 14,000 hectares in the Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh
  3. The key components are the Makodia and the Dhaudhan dams
  4. The Ken-Betwa project is the template for the Union government’s stated plan to transfer water across river basins
River Interlinking

Ken-Betwa project hangs on forest nod I

  1. What: The Rs. 9,000-crore Ken-Betwa river-interlinking project, which will partly submerge the Panna tiger reserve
  2. It has been delayed after a key Environment Ministry body tasked with giving it forest clearance has deferred it at least until January
  3. Core forest: The project will submerge 6,221 hectares of land— 4,141 hectares of it is core forest inside the reserve
  4. The Forest Advisory Committee’s clearance is required for this diversion of forest land
  5. Depending on whether a project takes over land in wildlife sanctuaries or notified forest land, it requires separate wildlife, forest and environment clearances
River Interlinking

What about Tiger habitat after river link?

  1. News: The The Ken-Betwa river linking project has got the approval of the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife
  2. Projects that specifically eat into tiger habitats need a positive recommendation from the National Tiger Conservation Authority on the basis of which the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife accords the wildlife clearance
  3. The Tiger Authority has recommended that other nearby tiger-bearing areas be classified as tiger reserve to compensate for the loss
  4. These include Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary, Rani Durgavati Wildlife Sanctuary (both in Madhya Pradesh) and Ranipur Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh
  5. The effort to integrate the three wildlife sanctuaries within the Panna Tiger Reserve will be undertaken simultaneously
River Interlinking

Wildlife panel okays Ken-Betwa river link

  1. News: The The Ken-Betwa river linking project has got the approval of the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife
  2. Impact: The project would submerge about 100 sq km of the Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, one of the country’s prime tiger habitats
  3. Environment minister: India should go ahead with at least one inter-linking of river project to assess its consequences
  4. Union water resources minister Uma Bharti, too, had threatened to go on hunger strike if the project did not get approval soon

Recently, linking of which of the following rivers was undertaken? [Prelims 2016]

(a) Cauvery and Tungabhadra

(b) Godavari and Krishna

(c) Mahanadi and Sone

(d) Narmada and Tapti

River Interlinking

River-linking to cost Rs. 5-lakh crore

  1. Govt expects to spend a massive Rs 5,60,000 crore on various river interlinking (ILR) projects
  2. It’s roughly 4% of India’s economy, now valued at Rs 1,35,00,000 crore, and significantly more than what India spends on either scientific research, the social sector or defence
  3. This is only a projection and not timebound as none of these projects are underway and costs could be dramatically revised
  4. The National Water Development Agency: The central agency that plans and prepares cost estimates for such projects
  5. It has so far identified 16 peninsular rivers and 14 Himalayan rivers that could potentially be linked to transfer water
River Interlinking

River linking to address drought, water scarcity

  1. Context: Union Minister H.N. Ananth Kumar on river linking to address drought and water scarcity
  2. Water grid: Linking rivers across the State would create a water grid that would end droughts and ensure constant supply of abundant water to all regions
  3. Example: Successful linking of Krishna and Godavari to transfer 80 tmcft of water from the Krishna Basin to the Godavari Basin has brought water to dry areas in that State
River Interlinking

Panel to take a fresh look at all proposed river links

  1. Why a fresh look? To evaluate their feasibility, particularly in maintaining a balance between environment and development.
  2. Intra-basin transfer of waters is also very important. The rainfall distribution in the country, even within a State, was uneven.
  3. Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Rajasthan are some of the “tail end” states.
  4. The National Water Development Agency proposal was to link major river systems where surpluses from the Godavari & Mahanadi were intended to be transferred to deficit areas in the south.

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