Interlinking of national rivers: options and comments
Interlinking or networking of rivers entails construction of dams and canals and other connected hydraulic engineering works for mass transfer of water across river basins. Basically, the scheme is to convey floodwater in the Ganga and Brahmaputra river basins to the arid and semi-arid areas of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, and to the peninsular rivers of south India. To achieve this there are basically three "options". They are the "canal option" to construct lengthy canals, the "tunnel option" to convey water under mountains, and the "pumping option" to pump water over mountains. A combination of these options is possible, but such combinations would not be clear alternatives to the general solution of mass transfer of water across river basins.
One typical proposed scheme of mass transfer of water envisages construction of a network of contour canals 120 meters (m) wide and 10 m deep, with an aggregate length of 14,900 kilometers (km) to form navigable waterways at an estimated cost in 2002, of Rs.4 lakh crores:
(a) Himalayan waterways of 4,500 km length at 500 m contour connecting all tributaries of Ganga and Brahmaputra.
(b) Central Waterways of 5,750 km length at 300 m contour connecting southern tributaries of Ganga with Mahanadi, Narmada, Tapti, etc.
© Southern Waterways of 4,650 km length at 300 m contour connecting the Godavari, Krishna, Kaveri and some west flowing rivers of the western coastal strip.
The scheme with an annual impounding capacity of 15,000 thousand million cubic feet (15,000 TMC) offers benefits of year-round inland water transport by small ships (that consume only about 20% of fuel of road transport to save fuel oil), extension of irrigation to 150 million acres, and generation of 60,000 MW of electric power. It proposes to retrieve floodwater now "going waste" to the sea by impounding, transmitting and distributing it to water-scarce areas.
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