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  • 19 March, 2021

  • 20 Min Read

Interlinking of River Projects

Interlinking of River Projects

  • The project of inter-linking of rivers was first proposed in the 1970s.
  • The National Perspective Plan (NPP) was prepared by the then Ministry of Irrigation (now Ministry of Jal Shakti) in August 1980 for water resources development through inter basin transfer of water, for transferring water from water surplus basins to water-deficit basins.
  • Under the NPP, the National Water Development Agency (NWDA) has identified 30 links (16 under the Peninsular Component and 14 under the Himalayan Component) for the preparation of Feasibility Reports (FRs).
  • The concept has been envisaged on the fact that Indo-Gangetic rivers are perennial and are fed from rain waters and other glacial sources of southwest monsoon.
  • On the other hand, peninsular rivers are rainfed and are heavily dependent on the southwest monsoon.
  • Hence, Indo-Gangetic plains witness devastating floods whereas peninsular states suffer from severe droughts.
  • If this excess water is transported to the peninsular rivers, the issues of floods and droughts can be resolved.
  • Therefore the interlinking of rivers will provide for equitable distribution of river waters.

What is the National River Linking Project?

  • The project proposes to transfer water from the ‘water surplus’ basin to the ‘water deficit’ basin by interlinking 37 rivers across the country through a network of nearly 3000 storage dams to form a gigantic South Asian Water Grid.
  • National Water Development Agency (NWDA) is responsible for the formulation of proposals for the linking of rivers.
  • The project has two components – 1) Himalayan Component & 2) Peninsular Component.

Himalayan Component:

  • Under this, 14 projects have been identified to link different rivers of the Himalayan Region.
  • It involves the construction of storage reservoirs on the Ganga and Brahmaputra rivers as well as their tributaries.
  • In addition, the interlinking of Ganga and Yamuna has also been proposed.
  • It is expected to benefit the drought-prone areas of Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, etc.
  • Further, it will moderate floods in the Ganga Brahmaputra river system.
  • It has 2 sub-component linkages:
  1. Ganga and Brahmaputra basins to Mahanadi basin.
  2. Eastern Ganga tributaries and Chambal and Sabarmati river basins.

Below is the diagram of the proposed & completed links under the Himalayan component:

Peninsular Component:

  • Under this, 16 projects have been proposed to link the rivers of South India.
  • Surplus waters of Mahanadi and Godavari will be transferred to Krishna, Pennar, Cauvery, and Vaigai.
  • It has 4 sub-component linkages
  • Mahanadi and Godavari basins to Krishna, Cauvery, and Vaigai rivers
  • West-flowing rivers south of Tapi to the north of Bombay
  • Ken River to Betwa River and Parbati, Kalisindh rivers to Chambal rivers
  • Some West flowing rivers to the East flowing rivers.

Below is the diagram of the proposed & completed links under the Peninsular component:



Rivers Concerned

States Concerned



Mahanadi (Manibhadra) -Godavari (Dowlaiswaram) link

Mahanadi & Godavari

Odisha, Maharashtra, AP, MP, Telangana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh


Godavari (Inchampalli) - Krishna (Pulichintala) link

Godavari & Krishna

Odisha, Maharashtra, AP, MP, Telangana, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh& Maharashtra


Godavari (Inchampalli) - Krishna (Nagarjunasagar) link

Godavari & Krishna

Odisha, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka &Chhattisgarh


Godavari (Polavaram) - Krishna (Vijayawada) link

Godavari & Krishna



Krishna (Almatti) – Pennar link

Krishna &Pennar

Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka &Telangana


Krishna (Srisailam) – Pennar link

Krishna &Pennar



Krishna (Nagarjunasagar) - Pennar (Somasila ) link

Krishna &Pennar



Pennar (Somasila) - Cauvery (Grand Anicut) link

Pennar& Cauvery

Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala & Puducherry


Cauvery (Kattalai) - Vaigai -Gundar link

Cauvery,Vaigai &Gundar

Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala & Puducherry


Ken-Betwa link

Ken & Betwa

Uttar Pradesh & Madhya Pradesh

11 (i)

Parbati -Kalisindh- Chambal link

Parbati, Kalisindh& Chambal

Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan & Uttar Pradesh (UP requested to be consulted during consensus building)


Parbati-Kuno-Sindh link

Parbati, Kuno and Sindh

MP and Rajasthan


Par-Tapi-Narmada link

Par, Tapi& Narmada

Maharashtra & Gujarat


Damanganga - Pinjal link


Maharashtra & Gujarat


Bedti - Varda link


Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh & Karnataka


Netravati – Hemavati link



Karnataka, Tamil Nadu & Kerala


Pamba - Achankovil - Vaippar link

Pamba, Achankovil&


Kerala & Tamil Nadu,



Manas-Sankosh-Tista-Ganga (M-S-T-G) link

Manas, Sankosh, Tista and Ganga

Assam, West Bengal, Bihar& Bhutan


Kosi-Ghaghra link


Bihar , Uttar Pradesh & Nepal


Gandak-Ganga link

Gandak& Ganga



Ghaghra-Yamuna link

Ghaghra& Yamuna



Sarda-Yamuna link

Sarda & Yamuna

Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand & Nepal


Yamuna-Rajasthan link

Yamuna &Sukri

Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana & Rajasthan


Rajasthan-Sabarmati link




Chunar-Sone Barrage link

Ganga & Sone

Bihar & Uttar3 Pradesh


Sone Dam – Southern Tributaries of Ganga link

Sone &Badua

Bihar & Jharkhand


Ganga(Farakka)-Damodar-Subernarekha link

Ganga, Damodar&Subernarekha

West Bengal, Odisha & Jharkhand


Subernarekha-Mahanadi link

Subernarekha& Mahanadi

West Bengal & Odisha


Kosi-Mechi link


Bihar , West Bengal & Nepal


Ganga (Farakka)-Sunderbans link

Ganga &Ichhamati

West Bengal


Jogighopa-Tista-Farakka link

(Alternative to M-S-T-G)

Manas, Tista& Ganga


What are the significances of rivers interlinking?

  • Control floods and droughts: India receives the majority of its rainfall in only 3 months of a year i.e., from June to September. Most of such rainfall occurs in northern and eastern India whereas southern India remains in water deficit. Thus linking will provide a two-way advantage, that is, controlling floods as well as droughts.
  • Solve the water crisis: The project envisages the supply of clean drinking water and water for industrial use amounting to 90 and 64.8 billion cu.m respectively with a view to satisfying the demand by 2050.
  • Hydropower generation: The building of dams and reservoirs are key components of the interlinking project = About 34,000 MW of total power could be generated if the whole project is implemented. Thus river interlinking has the potential to resolve the electricity issues of the industrial, agricultural as well as rural households.
  • Dry Weather Flow Augmentation: Transfer of surplus water stored in reservoirs during monsoon and releasing it during the dry season will facilitate a minimum amount of dry weather flow in the rivers. This would help in pollution control, navigation, fisheries, growth of forests, protection of wildlife, etc.
  • Irrigation benefits: Indian agriculture is primarily dependent on monsoons which is not reliable = failure of crops due to water scarcity as we have witnessed in the Vidharba region of Maharashtra. The project claims to provide additional irrigation facilities for about 35 million hectares in the water deficit western and peninsular regions.
  • Commercial benefits: In the long run, the interlinking of rivers will have commercial benefits. Canals can be utilised as inland waterways which will help in faster movement of goods from one place to another. Moreover, rural areas will develop with diverse income sources such as fish farming, etc.
  • Defence: The Project is expected to strengthen the security of the country by an additional waterline of defence.

What are the concerns with the implementation of the project?

Feasibility of the project:

  • The total cost of the project is expected to be around 5,60,000 crore at the 2002 price level.
  • Besides, the total cost with respect to the usage is expected to be 1,35,000 crore for power generation and 4,25,000 crore for irrigation and water supply.
  • In addition to the huge costs involved, the project would require huge engineering structures which also need constant monitoring.
  • Furthermore, Interlinking of rivers will require more power to lift the water than what it is likely to produce (hydropower).

Environmental impacts:

  • The project will alter the entire ecosystem of the rivers = affect fisheries, flora and fauna, wetlands and other ecosystems.
  • In addition to this, forest reserves and national parks will also be affected due to the construction of various links. For example, the Ket-Betwa link is expected to put in danger 4000 hectares of the Panna National park which is also an important tiger reserve.
  • Seismic implications on the Himalayas due to the weight of millions of litres of water.
  • The concerns about sediment management, particularly in the Himalayan system have been rising.
  • When the idea is to transfer water from the ‘surplus’ Himalayan river systems to ‘deficit’ basins of the southern part of India, the differential sediment regime defining the flow regimes needs to be considered.
  • This will lead to changes in ecosystem structures in both parts.
  • More importantly, the project will lead to a decrease in the flow of freshwater into the sea = affecting marine life.

Societal impacts:

  • The building of dams and reservoirs will result in a displacement of a lot of people which cannot even be estimated currently.
  • For example, Tehri Dam in Uttarakhand resulted in the submergence of more than 40 villages along with the partial submergence of 72 villages = causing the displacement of around 1 lakh people.
  • Moreover, there is also a question arises – Where could we rehabilitate these displaced people when there is increased pressure on land due to the rising population?

Inter-state disputes

  • Water is a state subject in the Indian constitution.
  • Many states including Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, and Sikkim have already opposed ILR projects.
  • There has been a dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over the sharing of water from the river Cauvery.

International disputes:

  • Interlinking of rivers will likely increase the number of conflicts not only at the state level but also at the international level.
  • Some of the inter-linking of rivers schemes have international implications, with a possible impact on countries such as Bhutan, Nepal, and Bangladesh
  • Bangladesh strongly opposes the move to transfer the Brahmaputra water to the Ganga.
  • Therefore, Water transfer in the Himalayan component needs to consider the effects on the neighbouring countries.

Cannot control floods:

  • It is doubtful whether interlinking projects can provide floodproofing. Theoretically, a large reservoir can help moderate floods in the downstream areas. However, in the case of India experiences have been different.
  • Big dams such as the Ranganadi dam, the Damodar dams, the Farakka and Bansagar dams, and the Hirakud dam have brought avoidable flood disasters to Assam, West Bengal, Bihar, and Odisha, respectively.

National Interlinking of Rivers Authority (NIRA)

The Central government is working on the establishment of an exclusive body to implement projects for linking rivers.


  • The proposal for an apex body on river linking has been under discussion for the past 2 years.
  • As of now, no specific timeline has been determined for the constitution of the Authority. Also, the earlier idea of framing a Bill, envisaging the creation of the NIRA, is not being pursued now.

About the NIRA

  • To be called the National Interlinking of Rivers Authority (NIRA), the proposed body is expected to take up both inter-State and intra-State projects.
  • It will also make arrangements for generating funds, internally and externally.
  • The subject of the establishment of the Authority was discussed at the last meeting of the Special Committee on Inter-Linking of Rivers (ILR) in New Delhi. Headed by the Union Minister of Jal Shakti, the panel includes Irrigation or Water Resources Ministers and Secretaries of States. Since its formation, the Committee has held 17 meetings.
  • It is being assisted by a Task Force for ILR, which is a committee of experts essentially drawn from the Jal Shakti Ministry, Central Water Commission and the National Water Development Agency (NWDA).

Way Forward

  • Local solutions (like better irrigation practice) and watershed management, should be focused on.
  • The government should alternatively consider the National Waterways Project (NWP) which “eliminates” friction between states over the sharing of river waters since it uses only the excess flood water that goes into the sea unutilized
  • The necessity and feasibility of river interlinking should be seen on case to case basis, with adequate emphasis on easing out federal issues.

Source: PIB

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