Written by Madhav Bahl, Grade 9 student.
A mega river linking project has been withdrawn by the central government. It’s called the Par-Tapi- Narmada Linking Project that spans (covers) districts in Maharashtra and Gujarat. It was called off to accommodate local tribal sentiment with both Maharashtra and Gujarat shying away from its implementation.
An ambitious river project dies…
The Central Government has decided to shelve the Par – Tapi- Narmada linking project after a group of ministers and BJP leaders from Gujarat advised the Home Minister against moving ahead with the plan. Maharashtra had already communicated its reluctance to go forward with the project. This once again puts the spotlight on the struggle between development and sustainability.
The Par-Tapi-Narmada Linking Project
The project takes its name from the three rivers of Central India that flow into the Arabian Sea.
Par is a river that originates near Nashik in Maharashtra and flows through Valsad in Gujarat.
Tapi, originates in Madhya Pradesh, flows through Maharashtra, and Saputara and Surat, in Gujarat.
Narmada, a major Deccan Plateau river, flows from Madhya Pradesh into Gujarat through Bharuch and Narmada districts.
The project was proposed way back in 2010 as an attempt to transfer surplus waters from the Western Ghats to deficit areas of Gujarat. The linking of the three rivers was supposed to solve the irrigation and drinking water woes of Saurashtra and Kutch regions of Gujarat. It was also supposed to relieve the pressure on Sardar Sarovar Dam in the summer months. Lastly, it was hoped that this project would reduce the frequency and intensity of the flooding in cities like Surat.
Dams, weirs, and canals
The Par-Tapi-Narmada link project planned to build seven dams, three diversion weirs, two tunnels, 395 kilometers of canal and six powerhouses along with a number of drainage systems. Most of this construction was to happen in the districts of Dang and Valsad in Gujarat.
These two districts also happen to be the home of Gujarat’s tribes who have been living in these areas since time immemorial.
Development for all?
Of course the Par-Tapi-Narmada linking project would have provided much needed water to the parched districts of Saurashtra and Kutch while also reducing the flooding in the western ghats.
The project would have diverted water which otherwise flowed into the sea to more than 2 lakh hectares and replenished traditional tanks in the region. Backward districts of Chota Udepur, Panchmahal, Valsad, Dang and Navsari would have directly benefited from this project . However, the project would have submerged villages, inundated forests and agricultural lands, and displaced populations. According to the National Water Development Agency, around 6000 hectares of land would have been submerged by the reservoirs. The project would have cost more than 10,000 crores and the cost would have escalated eventually. And there were environmental concerns too.
The tribals and farmers of the affected regions were unwilling to abandon their homes, forests and fields and lose their traditional way of life. There had been numerous protests as the locals felt more and more that their voices and their concerns were being ignored in the name of development. The ruling BJP too was finding it difficult to ignore the voices of protest. The state assembly elections due in Gujarat in December 2022, finally convinced the central government to shelve the Par-Tapi-Narmada linking Project.
Headline Image Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c8/Narmada_River_near_Bharuch.jpg
Image attribution: Tailorpratik85, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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