1. What is the inter-linking river project?
  2. History
  3. States  : Favour and Oppose
  4. What’re the benefits?
  5. What is the cost?
  6. Ken-Betwa river link
  7. Constitutional Provisions: “Water”
  8. What is the problem?
  9. What is CLNNUIW?
  10. Indo China Water Disputes?
  11. World Bank report on India’s Water Policy
  12. What’s the solution?

What is the inter-linking river project?

  • It aims to Transfer water from surplus to water deficit areas in the country.
  • Inter-Linking River Program will help saving the people living in drought-prone zones from hunger and people living in flood-prone areas from the destruction caused by floods”.


  • During the British raj, an Engineer Sir Arthur Cotton had sought to link the Ganga and the Cauvery to improve connectivity for navigation purposes
  • but due to the increased railway connectivity among the areas, the idea was shelved.
  • In 1982, the National Water Development Agency (NWDA) formed as an autonomous body to carry out the water balance and feasibility studies of the river linking program.
  • In Feb 2012, Supreme Court, gave its go-ahead to the interlinking of rivers and asked the government to ensure that the project is implemented expeditiously.

States  : Favour and Oppose

State Reason
In Favour =Tamil Nadu.
  • no major river originates in the state; it is dependent on inter-state rivers.
Assam, Sikkim and Kerala oppose the idea
  • they want exclusive right to use their water resources and that such transfers should not affect any rights of these states.
  • Due to reluctance of certain states, the Centre has not been allowed to undertake detailed surveys.

What’re the benefits?

  • Irrigating 35 million hectares;
  • Enabling full use of existing irrigation projects;
  • Generating power to the tune of 34,000 mw with added benefits, including flood control.

What is the cost?

  • Cost of the project was estimated at 5,60,000 crore;
  • the true cost can known only when the detailed project reports of the 30 river link projects are drawn up
  • So far only Ken-Betwa project is under survey.

Ken-Betwa river link

  • It is the only project for which the detailed project report has been prepared,
  • In 2005, MoU was signed between Union Water ministry, CMs of MP and UP.
  • Approximately 8,650 ha of forestland in Madhya Pradesh is likely to be submerged for the project; and part of that forestland is a part of the Panna National Park

Constitutional Provisions: “Water”

  • Subject “water” is placed in the Constitution in Entry 17 of List II (State List) of Schedule VII.
  • However, the caveat is Entry 56 of List I (Union List), which says, “Regulations and development of inter-state rivers and river valleys to the extent to which such regulation and development under the control of the Union is declared by Parliament by law to be expedient in the public interest.”

What is the problem?

  • Article 246 and 7th Sch. the states have exclusive jurisdiction over waters in their territories, including inter-state rivers
  • This provision prevents Union and Judiciary to settle the issue.
  • It has also stopped the Centre from clearly defined water rights among states, and end the long drawn legal battles.
  • The latest example is the second Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal. It has turned into a warzone, with a battery of lawyers, technical staff and irrigation department officials from Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Everyone fighting to win the maximum allocation of the Krishna river for their respective state.

What is CLNNUIW?

  • Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses : it is
    a document adopted by the UN on May 21, 1997, pertaining to the use and conservation of all waters that cross international boundaries, including surface and ground water.
  • Unfortunately, the convention is not yet ratified.
  • India, US, China, Canada and Australia are major opponents of the CLNNUIW.

Indo China Water Disputes?

  • China has several projects in west-central Tibet that may reduce the river water flow into India+Bangladesh.
  • China is planning to divert 200 billion cubic metres (BCM) of the Brahmaputra from south to north to feed the Yellow River.
  • If this is true, India will face a severe crisis, Many of the hydel projects in the Northeast India will have to be stopped
  • 600 out of the 1,900 BCM of river runoff in India, comes from Brahmaputra. You can imagine what would happen if the bulk of this is diverted by China.

World Bank report on India’s Water Policy

It says:

  • India is faced with poor water supply services, farmers and urban dwellers. All pumping out ground water through tube-wells.
  • it has led to rapidly declining water tables and critically depleted aquifers, and is no longer sustainable.
  • government gives highly subsidised or even free electricity. Hence juntaa using pumpsets in lax manner.

What’s the solution?

  • India is getting seriously water-stressed; and we need to act fast. Water has to be treated not as a local resource, but a global resource.
  • We need to see if a change in its constitutional status is required
  • We also need to enhance our water-storage capacity, as we suffer the most from the vagaries of the monsoon.
  • river-linking project, alongside a chain of water-conservation projects, would offer a solution.


  1. http://www.indianexpress.com/news/status-of-water/982120/
  2. http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/supreme-court-go-ahead-interlinking-rivers