Interlinking of Rivers in India – An Ambitious Project

Interlinking of Rivers in India – An Ambitious Project

The National River Linking Project (NRLP) was mooted by the Vajpayee government in 2002 to artificially link 14 Himalayan rivers in northern India and 16 peninsular rivers in southern India.

w0tJZn6.jpgInitially it was started at Rs 5.6 lakh crore at 2002-03 prices, however as of now the estimated cost is around Rs. 11 lakh crore. This includes the cost of land acquisition, compensation and construction.

Water is a scarce commodity and several basins such as Cauvery, Yamuna, Sutlej, Ravi and other smaller inter-state/intra-state rivers are short of water. 99 districts of the country are classified as drought prone and an area of about 40 million hectares is prone to recurring floods.

The inter-link project is expected to help reduce the scale of this suffering and associated losses.

India approved and commissioned the NDWA in June, 2005 to identify and complete feasibility studies of intra-state projects that would inter-link rivers within that state.

The governments of Nagaland, Meghalaya, Kerala, Punjab, Delhi, Sikkim, Haryana and the Union Territories of Puducherry, Andaman & Nicobar, Daman & Diu and Lakshadweep responded that they have no intra-state river connecting proposals. Tehe govt. of Puducherry proposed the Pennaiyar – Sankarabarani link (even though it is not an intra-state project).

The states government of Bihar proposed 6 inter-linking projects, Maharashtra 20 projects, Gujarat 1 project, Orissa 3 projects, Rajasthan 2 projects, Jharkhand 3 projects and Tamil Nadu 1 inter-linking proposal between rivers inside their respective territories. In 2005, the NDWA completed feasibility studies on the projects and found 1 project infeasible, 20 projects feasible and 1 project was withdrawn by the government of Maharashtra while others are still under study.

The overall implementation of the Interlinking of Rivers programme under the National Perspective Plan would give benefits of 35 million hectares of irrigation, raising the ultimate irrigation potential from 140 million hectares to 175 million hectares and generation of 34,000 megawatts of power, apart from the incidental benefits of flood control, navigation, water supply, fisheries, salinity and pollution control etc.

The National Perspective Plan comprised, starting in the 1980s, of two main components: Himalayan Rivers Development, and Peninsular Rivers Development. However, an intra-state component was added in 2005.

The Himalayan component would consist of a series of dams built along the Ganga and Brahmaputra rivers in India, Nepal and Bhutan for storage. Canals would be built to transfer surplus water from the eastern tributaries of the Ganga to the west.

This is expected to contribute to flood control measures in the Ganga and Brahmaputra river basins. It could also provide excess water for the Farakka Barrage to flush out the silt at the port of Kolkata.

Apart from providing irrigation to an additional area of about 22 million hectares, and the generation of about 30 million kilowatts of hydro-power, it will provide substantial flood control in the Ganga-Brahmaputra basin. The scheme will benefit not only the states in the Ganga-Brahmaputra basin, but also Nepal and Bangladesh, assuming river flow management treaties are successfully negotiated.

By 2015, fourteen inter-links under consideration for Himalayan component are as follows:

  1. Ghaghara - Yamuna link
  2. Sarda - Yamuna link
  3. Yamuna - Rajasthan link
  4. Rajasthan - Sabarmati link
  5. Kosi - Ghaghara link
  6. Kosi - Mechi link
  7. Manas - Sankosh - Tista - Ganga link
  8. Jogighopa - Tista - Farakka link
  9. Ganga - Damodar - Subernarekha link
  10. Subernarekha - Mahanadi link
  11. Farakka - Sunderbans link
  12. Gandak - Ganga link
  13. Chunar - Sone Barrage link
  14. Sone dam - Southern tributaries of Ganga link



River Interlinking Blue Prints of India, Source: IWMI

Proposed Inter Basin Water Transfer Links, Source:

The Peninsular Component Scheme is divided into four major parts. This component will irrigate an additional 25 million hectares by surface water, 10 million hectares by increased use of ground water and generate hydro power, apart from the benefits of improved flood control and regional navigation.

  1. Interlinking of Mahanadi – Godavari – Krishna – Pennar - Cauvery
  2. Interlinking of west flowing rivers, north of Bombay and south of Tapi
  3. Inter-linking of Ken with Chambal
  4. Diversion of some water from west flowing rivers