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Interlinking of Rivers

The river Inter-linking Project is a large-scale project that aims to effectively manage India's water resources. Connecting Indian....

The river Inter-linking Project is a large-scale project that aims to effectively manage India’s water resources. Connecting Indian rivers through a network of reservoirs and canals to improve irrigation and groundwater recharge, and reduce persistent floods in some areas, and water scarcity in others.

What are the advantages of Interlinking of Rivers?

1.Hydrological Imbalance of India: 
  • India has a large-scale hydrological imbalance with an effective rainfall period of 28 to 29 days.
  • Some regions receive very high rainfall while some face droughts.
  • Interlinking would transfer the water from flood-prone regions to draught-prone regions.
2. Improve the inland navigation: 
  • Interlinking of rivers will create a network of navigation channels.
  • Water transport is cheaper, less-polluting compare to the road and railways.
  • Further, the interlinking of rivers can ease the pressure on railways and roads also.
3. The benefit of irrigation: 
  • The interlinking of rivers has the potential to irrigate 35 million hectares of land in the water-scarce western peninsula.
  • This will help India to create employment, boost crop outputs, farm incomes.
  • Above all, the interlinking of rivers will make India a step closer to achieving food security.
4. Generation of power:
  •  The interlinked rivers have the potential to generate a total power of 34 GW.
  • This will help India to reduce coal-based power plant usage.
  • Furthermore, It will also help to achieve India’s targets under Glasgow Climate Pact and under the Paris agreement.
5. Other benefits: 
  • Water supply: The project envisages a supply of clean drinking water amounting to 90 billion cubic meter. It can resolve the issue of drinking water scarcity in India.
  • Similarly, interlinking of rivers has the potential to provide 64.8 billion cubic meter of water for industrial use.
  • Apart from that, interlinking can help the survival of fisheriesprotect wildlife in the summer months due to water scarcity. It can also reduce forest fires occurring in India due to climatic conditions.
  • India can also explore an additional line of defence in the form of waterline defence.

Advantages of river interlinking for water management in India:

  • Hydropower generation: This project envisages the building of many dams and reservoirs. For instance, NRLP can generate about 34000 MW of electricity if the whole project is executed.
  • Round the year water availability: River interlinking will help in dry weather flow augmentation. That is when there is a dry season, surplus water stored in the reservoirs can be released. This will enable a minimum amount of water flow in the rivers.
  • Irrigation benefits: River interlinking project will provide irrigation facilities in water-deficient places. For instance, Indian agriculture is primarily monsoon dependent. This leads to problems in agricultural output when the monsoons behave unexpectedly. This can be solved when irrigation facilities improve.
  • River interlinking project will also help commercially because of the betterment of the inland waterways transport system. For instance, as shown in Map 1, it will help to have intricate network of rivers across India where NRLP will implement river interlinking. Thereby it will increase transportation capacity.
  • Moreover, the rural areas will have an alternate source of income in the form of fish farming, etc. It will also augment the defence and security of the country through the additional waterline defence. 


  • India has 18 percent of the world’s population but only 4 percent of the usable water resources.
  • Variability in rainfall is high which is the main source in the country, flood and drought simultaneously within the states of Bihar and Maharashtra.
  • Irrigation potential from interlinking rivers will have limited impact. The net national irrigated area from big dams has decreased and India’s irrigated area has gone up primarily due to groundwater.
  • We don’t have River basin plan yet in place.
  • Large hydropower projects are no longer a viable option in India.
  • Storing large quantities of waters. Most of the sites suitable for the big reservoirs are in Nepal, Bhutan and in the North-East—who are in opposition to big storage reservoirs.
  • Water has now become a political issue.
  • There are political challenges as well. Water transfer and water sharing are sensitive subjects.
  • If the glaciers don’t sustain their glacier mass due to climate change, the interlinking project will have limited benefit.
  • Usually rivers change their course and direction in about 100 years and if this happens after interlinking, then the project will not be feasible for a longer run.
Interlinking ProjectFeatures
Manas-Sankosh-Tista-Ganga (MSTG) LinkIt is proposed that the Brahmaputra be linked to the Ganga, the Subarnarekha, and the Mahanadi to benefit areas in Assam, West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Orissa.This link envisions diverting surplus water from the Brahmaputra basin’s Manas and Sankosh rivers to augment Ganga flows upstream of Farakka.
Sutlej Yamuna link canalThe Satluj Yamuna Link Canal is a 214-kilometer-long canal proposed to connect the Sutlej and Yamuna rivers. The proposal, however, ran into difficulties and was referred to the Supreme Court.Once completed, the canal will allow Punjab and Haryana to share the waters of the rivers Ravi and Beas.
Ganga- Cauvery Link CanalThe Ganga-Cauvery Link Canal project was prepared by a United Nations team at the request of the Indian government.The project aimed to reduce the impact of floods in the Ganga basin while also supplying water to the country’s central and eastern regions, which suffer from chronic water scarcity.Due to the enormous financial costs and extremely high energy requirements, the scheme has been thoroughly examined and determined to be impractical.Furthermore, this project faces significant environmental challenges. .
Beas- Satluj Link CanalThe Beas-Sutlej link project involves diverting some water from the Beas River into the Satluj River via two tunnels and an open channel in order to generate power and increase the storage capacity of the Bhakra reservoir (Gobindsagar).It was built as part of the master plan to capture the water from the three eastern rivers, the Satluj, Beas, and Ravi, for irrigation and integrated power generation.
Ken-Betwa Link ProjectThe Ken-Betwa and Parbati-Kalisindh-Chambal links of the ILR project are receiving special attention from the government.The Ken-Betwa link envisions diverting surplus water from the Ken basin to the water-stressed Betwa basin.This link canal will provide irrigation to short areas of MP’s upper Betwa basin as well as en-route areas of MP and UP.
Par-Tapi-Narmada Link ProjectPar-Tapi-Narmada Link canal was proposed to divert excess water from rivers such as the Par, Auranga, Ambica, Purna, and Tapi up to the Narmada Command’s Vadodara branch.The Par-Tapi link canal is proposed to divert approximately 1,350 MCM surplus water up to Ukai Dam.The Tapi-Narmada link canal is proposed to divert approximately 2,904 MCM surplus water (including 1,554 MCM surplus water of Tapi at Ukai).
Mahanadi – Godavari linkMahanadi – Godavari link has been proposed between the Mahanadi River’s Manibhadra reservoir and the Godavari’s Dowleswaram barrage.
Krishna (Srisailam) – Pennar linkThe proposed link would transfer 2,310 Mm3 of water from the Srisailam reservoir to Adinimmayapalli Anicut.The water would mostly flow through natural rivers, with an estimated 2,095 M m3 reaching the Somasila reservoir.This water is exchanged for Mahanadi surplus water transferred from the Godavari to the Nagarjunasagar.
Kurnool- Cuddapah CanalKurnool Cuddapah Canal, abbreviated K.C. Canal is an irrigation canal in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh’s districts of Kurnool and Kadapa.The Penner and Tungabhadra rivers are linked by this canal.It begins near Kurnool at the Sunkesula barrage on the Tungabhadra River.The Kurnool-Cuddapah canal runs from Sunkesula anicut on the Tungabhadra River to Cuddapah, passing through the Kurnool and Cuddapah districts.
Pamba – Achankovil – Vaippar Link ProjectThree storage reservoirs, two tunnels, a canal system, and a few power generating units are included in the proposed Pamba-Achankovil-Vaippar Link project.

National Interlinking of Rivers Authority (NIRA)

  • NIRA is intended to be an autonomous independent body for the planning, investigation, financing, and implementation of river interlinking projects in the country.
  • NIRA will serve as a coordinating body for all river-linking projects and will be led by a Government of India Secretary-rank officer.
  • It will take the place of the current National Water Development Agency (NWDA).
  • It will coordinate with neighboring countries, concerned states, and departments, and will have authority over environmental, wildlife, and forest clearances under river linking projects, as well as their legal aspects.
  • NIRA will have the authority to raise funds and act as a repository for borrowed funds, money received on deposit, or interest-bearing loans.
  • It will also be able to establish Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) for individual link projects.

Read also: Water Resource in India

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