Economics Prelims cum Mains

Seven rivers and three interlinking projects

Why in News?

  • Using seven rivers, three interlinking projects will be built to create a national water grid which will help transfer water from water-rich to water-deficit regions.


What is river interlinking project or National water grid?

  • The Inter-Linking of Rivers program aims to connect various surplus rivers with deficient rivers.
  • The idea is to divert excess water from surplus regions to deficient regions to help improve irrigation, increase water for drinking and industrial use, and mitigate drought and floods to an extent.



  • The idea of national water grid was first discussed by Dr. K.L. Rao in 1972, the then Union Minister of Irrigation & Power. He is also known as the father of the Indian irrigation system that is providing livelihood to millions.
  • In 1980, the ministry of water resources formulated a National Perspective Plan (NPP) to look into inter-basin transfers.
  • The plan comprises two components:
  1. Peninsular rivers development
  2. Himalayan rivers development.
  • A National Water Development Agency (NWDA) was set up in 1982 with the objective to conduct surveys and prepaare feasible proposals for interlinking river projects.
  • Under the NPP, the National Water Development Agency (NWDA) identified 30 links (16 under Peninsular Component & 14 under Himalayan Component) for preparation of Feasibility Reports (FRs).
  • The SC, in 2012, directed the Centre to set up a special committee that would then constitute sub-committees. It directed the committee to submit a bi-annual report to the Cabinet on status and progress and directed the Cabinet to take appropriate decisions.
  • The Special Committee for Inter-Linking of Rivers submitted its progress report for the work done from July 2016 to March 2018, and the Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister was updated on the report recently




  • The status report of three priority links was shared with the Cabinet. These were:
  1. Ken-Betwa
  2. Damanganga-Pinjal
  3. Par-Tapi-Narmada
  • The Water Resources Ministry had drawn up detailed project reports for all three projects in 2015. The committee report also goes into the status of other Himalayan and peninsular links identified under the National Perspective Plan.



  • The project aims to link the rivers Ken (in the Bundelkhand region) and Betwa, both flowing through Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
  • It proposes to divert the surplus waters of river Ken through the Ken-Betwa link canal to river Betwa for meeting water requirements in the water-deficit Betwa basin.
  • Dams will be built across the Ken for storing and transferring water through the link canal.
  • According to the initial DPR(Detailed Project Report ), it will provide annual irrigation benefits of 6.35 lakh hectares (Phase I) in both states and a further 0.99 lakh hectares (Phase II) in MP.


Damanganga- Pinjal

  • The project aims to divert excess water from rivers in western India to meet the domestic and industrial water requirements of Greater Mumbai.
  • It proposes to move available water at the proposed Bhugad reservoir across the Damanganga and at the proposed Khargihill reservoir across the Vagh, a tributary of the Damanganga.
  • These two reservoirs, proposed by the NWDA, will be linked to the Pinjal reservoir (proposed by Maharashtra) through pressure tunnels.
  • The detailed project report was completed in March 2014 and submitted to the governments of Maharashtra and Gujarat.
  • It suggested Greater Mumbai region would benefit by 895 million cubic metres water.


Par- Tapi Narmada

  • The project proposes to transfer water from the Western Ghats to water-deficit regions of Saurashtra and Kutch via seven reservoirs proposed in northern Maharashtra and southern Gujarat.
  • It is an attempt to save water at the Sardar Sarovar project by using feeder canals to service a part of the command area of the dam.
  • The link envisages construction of these seven dams, three diversion weirs, two tunnels (5 km & 0.5 km), a 395-km canal (205 km in the Par-Tapi stretch including the length of feeder canals, and 190 km in Tapi-Narmada), 6 power houses and a number of cross-drainage works, documents state.



  • Letting the waters of two rivers mix may affect biodiversity.
  • As the program proposes the construction of a massive network of canals and dams, it would lead to large-scale displacement of people and changes in agricultural patterns, and affect livelihoods.
  • There are also objections related to interlinking for financial reasons and the cost-benefit ratio might no longer be favourable.
  • Rainfall patterns are changing due to climate change, so the basins now supposed to be surplus, might cease to be so in a few years.

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