GUWAHATI, April 28 � Concerns are emerging over India�s interlinking of rivers project that seeks to divert water from several rivers in Assam to relatively water scarce areas in other parts of the country. Experts from varied backgrounds have questioned the rationale behind the grand project and also pointed out likely adverse impact in the state.
Well known researcher on water resources, Dr Parthajyoti Das, who is well acquainted with the region�s river basins, has stated: �The assumption about surplus and deficit water in some rivers is not supported by any credible scientific study. The Supreme Court judgment encourages a grandiose project without exploring feasible and ecologically benign localised alternative such as integrated river basin planning and management, water harvesting, reduction in wasteful use of water, in equitable allocation of river water to different sectors�.
According to the present design, water from the main Brahmaputra river will be diverted to Farakka from Jogighopa in western Assam and the tributaries�such as Manas-Sonkosh-Teesta along the foothills of Bhutan. In that case, the project will not help in reducing the flood problem in the whole eastern and central parts of Assam.
The ambitious scheme, in his view, also appears inconsistent with changes in climate and its cascading effects on rivers from which water could be diverted. �Probable implications of climate change on the Himalayan rivers such as reduced lean season flow, high flood flows in summer and extreme events in the Himalayan upstream catchments might make the huge investment in this project highly risky,� he noted.
Akhil Gogoi, who is spearheading a campaign for farmer�s rights, saw the project as an �attempt to exploit water resources of Assam for the benefit of a section of people while ignoring the needs of local agricultural communities who are greatly dependent on river water�.
Describing the project as anti-people, Gogoi said that during the lean season when the flow of rivers recede sharply, further decrease in water availability due to river linking will adversely affect farmers who do not have any access to irrigation. �Even if one is to believe about surplus water in the state�s rivers, a mechanism can be developed to use that for the region�s own advancement,� he remarked.
Soumyadeep Datta of Nature�s Beckon said, �In the present design, the project will definitely threaten the ecosystems which have evolved close to the rivers from which water will be diverted. Instead, if the need for water is so acute then a plan could ensure transporting water by pipes, for which Assam can generate an income from a valuable resource�but any change in the land use pattern by huge constructions is not acceptable.�