River Linking Projects in Odisha ( India )
Orissa will only carry water from Brahmaputra to Godavari
The December 2004 Tsunami has changed the geographical scenario of many places of Asia including India. Nature can do anything. Mankind is helpless. But, how far it is justified to change the map of our country, under the pretext of bringing water from highly populated areas to the areas where there is scarcity of water? If the river linkage project is implemented, it is definite that hundreds of villages will be submerged, and it will bring a change in the map of India.
From 1950 to 1993, 2 crore 16 lakh people were displaced for various mega projects like big dams, thermal stations, big industries and sanctuaries in India . Among the affected people 45% are from Schedule tribes and most of them are from the poorer section. Due to the thirty proposed River linking projects, how many hundreds of villages will be submerged in water and how many crores of people will be displaced, it is yet to be estimated. Detailed Project reports are yet to be prepared. For this man made Tsunami, map of India may be changed entirely.
In 2001, the Central Government's National Water Development Agency had estimated 5 lakh 60 thousand Crore rupees as the cost of these projects. Now the cost may go up to more than 25 lakh Crore rupees. It has been envisaged to irrigate about 3 crore 50 lakh hectares of cultivable land and generate 35 thousand megawatt Hydro Electric power.
The objectives of the project are flood control, drought control, supply of drinking water, fishery, water supply to industries, and pollution control. If this project is implemented, the possibility of commercialization of water cannot be ruled out.
In March 2005, the Minister of Water Resources informed that in the first phase Ken-Betwa project, and in the second phase Parvati-Kalisindh-Chambal project will be implemented, In the second phase Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan states are involved. In the third phase, Mahanadi-Godabari project will be implemented. The central minister of Water Resources said, "The main issue is the consensus amongst the states involved in these projects". Prior to this, in December 2002, the then minister of Water Resources of Orissa said, "A plan is in the process of being worked out to link all the rivers from Subarnarekha to Rishikulya". It is learnt from the statement of the minister of Orissa, that the Government of Orissa is prepared to implement the River linking Plan.
It is learnt from reliable sources that the following projects may be implemented. The Subarnarekha - Mahanadi project may be implemented. Then the Ganga - Damodar - Subarnarekha project will be expanded and will be linked with Subarnrekha - Mahanadi project.
Under the Ganga - Damodar - Subarnarekha project, Subarnarekha barrage will be built at Bosraghat in West Bengal. In this project Orissa, Bihar and West Bengal will be involved. About 8 lakh 48 thousand hectares of land will be irrigated in total, and out of this only 30 thousand hectares will be irrigated in Orissa. .
As envisaged in the Subarnarekha- Mahanadi project, water will be carried from Subarnarekha barrage to Manibhadra reservoir in Orissa. Construction of Manibhadra Dam and about 313 km of irrigation canals are included in this project. It is likely, more than one lakh and 75 thousand hectares of land is to be acquired for this. By submerging one lakh 75 thousand hectares of land, only four lakh 18 thousand hectares (about two and half times) will be irrigated through Manibhadra Reservoir. In any project, standard practice applied should be as follows: Proposed irrigated land should be atleast 5 to 8 times the land to be submerged. Any deviation to it is not justified.
Through large dam projects, only partial control of floods can be achieved. Complete flood control is not possible. If Manibhadra Dam project is implemented more than one lakh seventy-five thousand hectares of land will be submerged. As a result, lakhs of people will be displaced. The people of these affected areas have already rejected this Manibhadra project. If the name of Manibhadra project is changed to Subalaya, it will also be rejected by the people. One side of the river is named Manibhadra and the other side Subalaya.
It is said that through the river-linkage projects pollution will be controlled. But the fact remains that more than 60 thousand hectares of forest land may be submerged. As a result the habitats of the wild animals will be affected, which will have a great impact on the surrounding. It is really a ludicrous proposition that there will be pollution control under these conditions.
The Minister of Water Resources has admitted that in this project, agreement of the involved parties is most necessary. In the past, a lot of agreements have been signed on the issue of distribution of water between different states, but in many cases these agreements have been violated. The central government gets into embarrassing position for these disputes. If the issue is not solved at the political level, some states go to the courts of law for settlement. There is little hope of the concerned states giving their consent for River-linking projects. There is scarcity of water in river Mahanadi in any season, other than rainy reason. In fact, Orissa will only function as a medium of carrying water from Brahmaputra to Godavari. Orissa will not be benifitted in any manner. All these project proposals are now in cold storage. Let it remain so.