Weak link

As Mad­hya Pradesh's am­bi­tious plan to trans­port Nar­mada wa­ter to the Malwa plateau takes shape, it demon­strates the fu­til­ity of river-in­ter­link­ing projects


Wno wa­ter prob­lems anE HAVE ymore. Now, Kshipra ji has suf­fi­cient wa­ter for ev­ery­one,” an­nounces a smil­ing Man­ish Dangi, res­i­dent of Mudla vil­lage in the wa­ter-deficit Malwa plateau of Mad­hya Pradesh.He is stand­ing on the bank of a con­crete canal filled with swift-flow­ing wa­ter.It takes a while to fathom that the 3 me­tre-wide canal from the Nar­mada river feeds the fast dry­ing Kshipra river,and is its new ori­gin.

Just 50 kilo­me­tres away, res­i­dents of Aat­wan vil­lage lo­cated in the Ni­mar plains of the Nar­mada river,are fac­ing se­vere wa­ter cri­sis.The vil­lage is lo­cated in the com­mand area of the Sis­lia reser­voir but does not re­ceive a drop from it.“Ev­ery day,the reser­voir fills up and then, the wa­ter dis­ap­pears,” says De­o­ram Nar­vare of Aat­wan, star­ing rue­fully into the nearly empty reser­voir.

This re­ver­sal in wa­ter sit­u­a­tion of the two places is the re­sult of the Mad­hya Pradesh gov­ern­ment’s am­bi­tious Nar­mada-Malwa river-link project,the first river-link­ing project of the coun­try. Un­der the project, the gov­ern­ment plans to trans­port Nar­mada wa­ter to the arid Malwa re­gion. This will be done by link­ing five rivers of the Malwa re­gion—the Kshipra, Gamb­hir, Par­vati, Kali Sindh and Khan—to var­i­ous dams on the Nar­mada through canals and pipe­lines. The gov­ern­ment claims that to­gether, th­ese links would pro­vide drink­ing wa­ter to 3,000 vil­lages and 70 cities and ir­ri­gate about 680,000 hectares (ha) in the arid Malwa.

How­ever,a close ex­am­i­na­tion of the first phase of the project, link­ing the Nar­mada with the Kshipra, shows the 26,000 crore Nar­mada-Malwa link project is not only ex­pen­sive, but en­vi­ron­men­tally dis­as­trous. It was com­pleted in Fe­bru­ary.While there is no ev­i­dence to show that the project would al­le­vi­ate Malwa’s wa­ter cri­sis,it is al­ready de­priv­ing peo­ple along the Nar­mada of wa­ter. Be­sides,the project is highly im­prac­ti­cal as it


The canal from the Nar­mada river feeds the fast dry­ing Kshipra river

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