Inter-linking of rivers not feasible: Murli Manohar Joshi

New Delhi: Inter-linking of rivers may not be feasible in most parts of India as a majority of the rivers are themselves short of water, BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi said on Wednesday.

Joshi was speaking to the media after the Estimates Committee of the Lok Sabha presented a report on the Ganga rejuvenation.

Asked if inter-linking of rivers can be a solution to India’s water woes, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) veteran said: “It is a complicated issue. Ken and Betwa rivers can be linked but Ken and Ganga cannot be.

“All rivers are drying up. How can you link the rivers?”

Joshi said the issue needed to be debated thoroughly.

“Inter-linking of rivers needs much debate. It is feasible only in some places. The idea of linking rivers from Ganga to Kaveri is not possible,” he said. “What will one beggar give to another beggar?”

The BJP leader also said that the lifting of water for transfer would require a lot of electricity.

“It will require power and money. We are short of power as it is… How will water cross the Malwa Plateau. Imagine the number of pumping sets required?”

The plan for inter-linking of rivers was raked up during the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime of 1999-2004. Joshi was the Human Resource Development minister then.

The idea behind inter-linking rivers lies in the theory that some rivers are water surplus and some have less water.

The idea focuses on connecting these rivers for more equitable distribution of water.

Environmentalists and scientists have warned against this, stressing that rivers cannot be treated like water pipelines and diverting the flow may destroy the ecology of the river and the river itself.

Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti last month made a strong pitch for focusing on river inter-linking to tackle drought.

At present, three links from the proposed series of links have been taken up. These are – Ken-Betwa link, Damanganga-Pinjal link and Par-Tapi-Narmada link.

Joshi clarified that inter-linking of rivers was not a part of the report that studied the Ganga rejuvenation plan.

The report has expressed concern over the Ganga being one of the 10 most polluted rivers in the world, and pointed out that the river that supplies water to 43 percent of India’s population has been termed a “dying river”.

Joshi on Wednesday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi should chair a committee to oversee the progress of projects aimed at rejuvenating the Ganga.

Joshi said work on cleaning the Ganga started in 1985 but even after 20 years nothing had changed.

The panel, in its report, recommends creation of an overarching and empowered authority for Ganga rejuvenation to ensure uninterrupted flow in the river.

Joshi added that the prime minister should himself monitor the progress of Ganga programmes.

“The committee should also present a report annually to parliament over the progress,” Joshi said, adding this was his suggestion and not the committee’s.