The River Linking Project – who pays and who gains

Sunday, May 13, 2012
Room 2-143 (MIT)
77 Mass Ave, Cambridge

The Indian Supreme Court in February of this year ordered the Government of India to implement an ambitious project to link the major rivers of the region in a “time-bound manner”. This $150 billion project is to interconnect rivers to transfer water from where it is deemed in “surplus” to where it is in “deficit”. The benefits of this project are doubtful and the possible harm to the ecology and livelihood of millions in South Asia are not being taken into account.

This project has two parts, the Himalayan and the Peninsular. The Peninsular component involves rivers that are internal to India. The Himalayan part involves the Ganges and the Brahmaputra, international rivers flowing through the lower riparian country, Bangladesh, before reaching the sea. The main aim of the Himalayan part of IRLP is to transfer water from these rivers away from Bangladesh and to western and southern India. (More sources)

The Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia considers this project ill-advised for a number of reasons which include

  • Large scale artificial transfer of water causes significant harm to the river basins of the source as well as the destination. There are many examples of this, including the well-known case of the Amu Daria and Syr Daria Rivers whose flows were diverted from the Aral Sea and towards Kazakhstan for irrigation purposes and, eventually, led to the death of Aral Sea and increased salinity and waterlogging in Kazakhstan.
  • Ecosystems are part of nature and should be adapted to, not destabilized on such a massive scale
  • Many more essential and valuable results can be obtained with the proposed $150 billion of the project that could benefit the environment as well as address better the goal of greater food self-sufficiency and equality in society.
  • The Brahmaputra River now serves as the source of about 70% of dry season river flow in Bangladesh. By diverting the Brahmaputra flow and by channeling yet more flow from the Ganges River, IRLP will strike a severe blow to the remaining rivers of Bangladesh.
  • Many unknowns can render this project useless, including changes in course of rivers and changes in flow due to climate destabilization

Please join us and members of the community to discuss the project and its implications. There will be brief presentations by members of the Alliance on different aspects of the IRLP, alternatives, and a discussion on what is to be done.

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