The plan entails linking nearly 60 rivers, including Ganges. The government hopes that it will cut farmers’ dependence on monsoon rains by bringing millions of hectares of cultivatable land under irrigation.
In recent weeks, some parts of India and neighbouring Bangladesh and Nepal have been hit by the worst monsoon floods in years, following two years of poor rainfall.
PM Modi has personally pushed through clearances for the first phase of the project – which would also generate thousands of megawatts of electricity.
That will involve construction of a dam on the Ken river, also known as the Karnavati, in north-central India and a 22-km (14-mile) canal connecting it to the shallow Betwa.
Government officials say diverting water from bounteous rivers such as the Ganges, Godavari and Mahanadi to sparse waterways by building a clutch of dams and a network of canals is the only solution to floods and droughts.
The 425-km (265-mile) Ken flows through a tiger reserve nestled in a verdant valley.
The government plans to clear out 6.5 percent of the forest reserve to build the dam, relocating nearly 2,000 families from 10 remote villages.
The government is also finishing up paperwork on projects in western India linking the Par-Tapi with the Narmada and the Daman Ganga with the Pinjal.
The projects involves Gujarat and neighbouring Maharashtra.
The river-linking projects was first proposed in 2002 by the last BJP-led government.
Work stalled because state governments sparred over water sharing contracts and clearances got stuck in India’s notoriously ponderous bureaucracy.
India, which has 18 percent of the world’s population but only 4 percent of the usable water resources, perversely gives incentives to produce and export thirsty crops such as rice and sugar cane.
News link: timesofindia.indiatimes.com
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