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AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT

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ABSTRACT

Coping with annual floods and droughts, both occurring at the same time in different parts, has been a major concern for India over the years. These concerns are more acute today as the growing population and the resultant increase in water demand place a heavy burden on the unevenly distributed water resources, and also cause huge economic losses to the financially vulnerable groups of the population. Additionally, there is a huge demand to enhance and diversify food production

Designed to address these issues, the National River Linking Project proposes to transfer water from the potentially water surplus Himalayan rivers to the water-scarce river basins of western and peninsular India. The NRLP will build 30 river links and approximately 3000 storages to connect 37 Himalayan and peninsular rivers to form a gigantic south Asian water grid. Environmentalists questioned the ecological cost of large dams, while the NGOs and civil society probed the social cost of people displacement. However, much of the arguments for and against the project have little analytical rigor. This analysis has been done to provide a balanced analysis of the pros and cons of the NRLP components

AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

CHAPTER

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ABSTRACT LIST OF FIGURES 1 INTROUCTION 1.1 GENERAL 1.2 NEED FOR THE PROJECT 1.3METHODS OF INTERLINKING 2 THE CONDITION OF WATER IN INDIA 2.1 DISTRIBUTION OF WATER 2.2 SUPPLIES AND CONSUMPTION OF WATER 2.3 WATER SCENARIO IN THE FUTURE 3 AN OVER VIEW OF THE NRLP 3.1 PROPOSED RIVER LINKS 3.3 BUDGET AND COST ESTIMATES 3.4 CHALLENGES FACING THE PROJECT 3.5 RISK ASSESMENT 4 CASE STUDY: POLLAVARAM PROJECT 4.1 GODAVARI-KRISHNA TRANSFERS 4.2 POLAVARAM PROJECT DESCRIPTION 4.3 METHODS 4.4 Results and discussions 4.5 CONCLUSION

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AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT

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LIST OF FIGURES FIGURE1: Distribution of average annual water resources for 1974 and 2025 (Pg. 10) FIGURE3: Links envisaged as per the National Perspective Plan(Pg. 23) AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 5 .15) FIGURE4: Map of Krishna and Godavari basins(Pg.

P ± Water Evaluation and Planning Model S.D.E.LIST OFABREVIATIONS N.A.W.A ± National Water Development Agency W.L.R.M ± Digital Elevation Model E.I ± Stockholm Environment Institute D.F ± Environment Flow N.E.W.P ± National Water Policy N.P ± National River Linking Plan AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 6 .E.

Quite simply. While there exists excellent literature on different alternatives to water management since independence. This paper addresses the challenges inherent in the government¶s policy decision to interlink rivers as envisaged by the bureaucratic agency of state power. the government of India developed a new National Water Policy. which states that ³water is a prime natural resource. development. the national perspective guiding water resource development in India has focused on a supply-based paradigm as the only alternative to meet water needs for such diverse purposes as irrigation. Industrialization. drinking water. This top-down solution to India¶s growing water needs has stirred controversy and debate in one of the world¶s largest democracies. sanitation. Keeping in view the increasing demand for water. unless we change our ways and practices the world will be living with freshwater shortages in the coming future. and construction of large dams have damaged the earth¶s surface water in persistent ways. pollution. AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 7 . a basic need and a precious national asset. Anthropogenic activities are polluting and depleting this finite wellspring of life at a startling rate. Planning.1 GENERAL The world is fast running out of usable water. intensive agriculture. deforestation. and management of water resources need to be governed by national perspectives´ (National Water Policy 2002).CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION 1. industrial and other uses in a sustainable manner.

2 NEED FOR THE PROJECT y Flood control y Cheap water for irrigation y Drinking water y Hydroelectric power y Employment generation y Inland navigation y National integration AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 8 .1.

CHAPTER 2 THE CONDITION OF WATER IN INDIA 2. 3. However. Parts of the country have abundant precipitation and others face extreme water deficits. estimated by the National Commission as 1. Degraded watersheds. The present ineffective management of water ignores the potential of conservation and embraces the alternative of increasing supply. differences in consumption. leakage and evaporation. The problem of storage is exacerbated by a faulty distribution system. the utilizable resources of the country are 690 cubic km of surface water and 396 cubic km of ground water (Ministry of Water Resources 1999a).000 cubic km annually over India. with the remaining 1.´ The ever-increasing stress caused by population growth and concomitant increased agricultural and industrial demands for water have created an apparent scenario of AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 9 .000 cubic km of the total is confined to the four months of monsoon. Annual water resources of the country are measured in terms of runoff in the river systems. accompanied by anomalies of mismanagement and the failure of the population to embrace conservation of this vital resource.000 cubic km falling in the remaining eight months of the year.1 DISTRIBUTION OF WATER Despite opulent precipitation of 4.953 cubic km. shrinking canal networks. drying local pond systems. and consumer wastage. 2. and wetland degradation as a result of anthropogenic activity and climate change relegate water to the status of ³scarce commodity. The bulk of water during the monsoon washes into the oceans unused. Even this precipitation is uneven.2 SUPPLIES AND CONSUMPTION OF WATER Profligate consumption of the limited supply of water is the most pervasive and persistent problem to contain.

water shortage that requires augmentation. AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 10 . Figure 1 below describes the distribution of water resources for the years 1974 (actual) and 2025 (projected).

where supply will barely meet demand. and state studies. in spite of seasonal and temporal variations of water availability as reflected in the basic compilation of water demands and yields. AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 11 . the estimated resource availability will simply not be able to match the demand of 1. and inadequate attention to conservation. The data shows a corresponding decline in residual utilizable water In these scenarios. However. water scarcity to some extent is a social construct. along with optimal development of utilizable water resources in the country. the impending crisis in water is also due to inadequate water management and environmental degradation.180 BCM. lack of efficiency in water use.3 WATER SCENARIO IN THE FUTURE The simulations of utilizable water scenarios up to 2050 as calculated by the Ministry of Water Resources provide a snap shot of the existing and future scenarios. Return flow follows similar trends. The utilizable surface water and ground water remains 690 km3 and 396 km3 under both low and high demand scenarios. In addition to the spatial availability of water. basin studies. total water requirement and return flow are steadily rising in future in terms of the national average. the National Commission noted that the situation will not become a crisis if steps are taken in advance. Admittedly. but population growth has to be contained to the low demand scenario of 2050 to match requirements. If water requirements reach those projected under a high demand scenario.2. Water availability needs to be enhanced from the present 520 BCM. rampant pollution.

1 PROPOSED RIVER LINKS 3.CHAPTER 3 AN OVER VIEW OF THE NRLP 3. and Bhutan.1. The Himalayan Component proposes fourteen canals (Table 3) and the Peninsular Component sixteen (Table 4. In the Himalayan Component. many dams are slated for construction on tributaries of the Ganga and Brahmaputra in India. opposite). The scheme envisages flood control in the Ganga and Brahmaputra basins and a reduction in water deficits for many states. AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 12 . Nepal. The project intends to link the Brahmaputra and its tributaries with the Ganga and the Ganga with the Mahanadi River to transfer surplus water from east to west.1 HIMALAYAN COMPONENT The interlinking river project is separated into two primary components.

impose ecological risks. and Maharashtra. The Sabarmati recorded an average annual flow of 3. spreading local contamination problems and raising questions of accountability for sources of pollution.200 cubic meters. diverting the waters of Narmada 225 km upstream has restored its flow. Pennar.1. is based on good rains in Madhya Pradesh providing enough water to Narmada for sharing it with Sabarmati. Karnataka. Interlinking the Ken with the Betwa. and Chambal rivers is proposed to benefit Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. The Sabarmati today has been reduced to a canal dependent on Narmada. instead of creating conditions for recharge in the 21. Recurrent droughts and incessant water shortages are looked upon as an opportunity to put aside these forgotten problems. While the reasons for drying up of the Sabarmati remain unaccounted for. Parbati. AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 13 .2 PENINSULAR COMPONENT In the Peninsular Component. river interlinks are envisaged to benefit the states of Orissa. The linkage of the Mahanadi and Godavari rivers is proposed to feed the Krishna. Kalisindh. The assumption op. and Vaigai rivers.674 sq km of its watershed.3.200 cusecs of water over a crest of about 116 meters. The project is likely to alter the geography of the country. Tamil Nadu. and also inadvertently distribute pollutant loads across the rivers. Cauvery. cit. Transfer of water from Godavari and Krishna entails pumping 1. Gujarat. Pondicherry.

AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 14 .

AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 15 .

3.000 crores ($4.000 crores ($72.000 crores (Goyal 2003)²equivalent to approximately $122. 5.000 crores ($3.4 billion) a year to execute the project (Goyal 2003).50. The economic viability of the project remains questionable. the National Water Development Agency affirms AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 16 . since effective conservation of water is possible only at local levels. out of which Rs. Long term planning and a sound financial simulation are required to meet the standard of due diligence for such proposals.5 billion) as the cost of completing what would be the largest civil engineering project ever in India.000 crores ($7.000 crores ($121. Gujja (2003) estimates Rs. Another estimate puts it close to 5. Raising Rs.5 billion). As a long term project.60. The Central Government is estimated to need Rs. the actual inflation and potential cost increases during such a long span are anybody¶s guess.56. the scarcity of water could be overcome by harvesting water locally. 5.000 crores ($120.30.2 billion) each year over ten years is by no means a small task as this amount is twice that of current annual tax collections.8 billion).7 billion²with an annual outlay over thirty-five years of Rs. but such a strategy cannot solve the national problem of uneven distribution of hydrologic resources. 16.3. the government seems ready to commit this huge expenditure mostly because of popular sentiment. In supporting the plan. Technical feasibility studies have yet to be carried out. Yet. 33.3 BUDGET AND COST ESTIMATES The estimated cost (in 2002) of interlinking rivers stands at Rs. To some extent. Proponents of the river linking project argue that water scarcity or surplus is a result of extreme conditions of flood or drought that are at the mercy of the vagaries of natural precipitation.3 billion) is earmarked for linking the Himalayan rivers with the various peninsular rivers (Sharma 2003). 20. Local watershed developments are viable as stand alone projects.

bureaucratic projects prone to failure. a National Water Grid seems imperative and the interlinking of rivers necessary to foster equitable water transfers from ³surplus´ to ³scarce´ basins of India. benefits. signals a return to centralized. while also promoting the availability of water for nature. it is felt that limited water transfers from Godavari at Khampalli and Polavarum towards South would take care of the deficit in Cauvery and Vaigai basins. is potentially fraught with serious environmental consequences. To its opponents. Therefore. In addition to transferring water from surplus to deficit areas.that it will provide water to irrigate 35 million hectares of farmland and supply 34 million kilowatts of hydroelectricity From the basic compilation of water demands and yields. The National Commission on Integrated Water Resource Development Plan (Ministry of Water Resources 1999b) commented.empting resources and attention from other social projects that are a higher priority. which is linked with industrial growth and quality of life measurements. and approval. agriculture. In addition to construction of dams and barrages. It is asserted that the scheme would provide protection from floods and droughts. the river interlinking project has been looked upon as an a priori proposition that undermines conservation of a scarce resource. the scheme to interlink rivers also presumes that water will be stored and released at the optimal time and place. appraisal. was announced in advance of standard review procedures of scientific evaluation. ³there seems to be no imperative necessity for massive water transfers. AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 17 . and drawbacks of such massive projects. and industry (Jhunjhunwala 2002). bringing its availability under human control.´ The Commission noted that further studies of inter-basin transfers need to be undertaken to clarify the true costs. pre. and represents a distortion of priorities. The assessed needs of basins could be met from full development and efficient utilization of intra-basin resources except in the case of Cauvery and Vaigai basins. it would promote generation of hydroelectricity.

efforts to aid those afflicted by the problems of displacement and rehabilitation that inevitably accompany such projects must be taken as a prerequisite. the interlinking project aims to transfer floodwaters of the Ganga and Brahmaputra river basins to the peninsular areas of South India. In recent years. First is the ³canal option´ to construct lengthy canals for the purpose. Such changed circumstances are bound to create impediments to the execution of the project and offer stiff resistance to it.4. and demand their due. and third is the ³pumping option´ that will transfer water over mountains by pumping. agitate.L. An analysis of the engineering options to deal with these challenges in trying to implement the project does not seem to be an easy task (Vombatkere 2003). the entire socio-economic strata of affected people are more aware of their rights and know how to protest. popular awareness. less pollution. The involvement of global capital will have its own complications.Proposals to interlink the rivers of India also entail massive economic. and floods that were not so severe or frequent as now. participation.1 TECHNOLOGICAL CHALLENGES Basically. 3.4 CHALLENGES FACING THE PROJECT 3. lesser deforestation. and social costs. AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 18 . along with recognition of alternative solutions. Rao first proposed the project decades ago. These conditions present a number of challenges. Since then. ecological. At the time K. second. these watersheds had more water. the ³tunnel option´ allows water to flow under mountains. Increasingly. and empowerment in evaluation of such projects has created an awareness of merits and demerits they offer. the Indian population has increased enormously. There are three options to accomplish such transfer of surplus water.

necessitating regular bank clearance work to maintain structural integrity of the canal system. The donor states will accept this proposition only. Thus the technological options envisaged have both economic as well as socio-environmental consequences to deal with. Canals will interfere with the natural flow of water and divert part of the flow alongside their embankments as they cut through intersecting watercourses.4.1.3.1 CANALS: A canal running along topographical contours will allow water flow in a unidirectional manner. Interstate transfer of water will be problematic and issues of inter.river transfer of water cannot be easily resolved.1.4. Trees and other vegetation will tend to grow profusely in this water-rich zone. The fiscal accounting of interlinking rivers makes this option uneconomical.4.3 TUNELLING: Tunneling tens of kilometers would involve a huge expenditure. 3.1. requiring regular dredging. The Vindhya Mountains are about 300 m above MSL. Canals will function as catch-basins. AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 19 . which is 250 m above MSL (Vombatkere 2003).2 PUMPING: Pumping water over the Vindhya Mountains can transfer the Ganga-Brahmaputra water and its tributaries to regions in the south. 3. The electric power required to pump water to such heights will be close to the current power generation of the entire nation. The Ganga-Brahmaputra floodplains are about ten meters above mean sea level (MSL). separating the floodplains of the north from the Deccan Plateau. easily becoming filled with silt and residue that will reduce their capacity.

This implies the need for the private sector. Reductions in flooding by diversion of AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 20 . financing dependent on private sources. In spite of all conventional safety designs in building dams and reservoirs. the direct transfer of surplus water is not possible. and captive electric power generation created. canals. such a plan should be self-sustaining so that. Such a process entails the challenge of having to abandon regulatory regimes and allow the market to make decisions over water resources under the influence of the World Bank. The maintenance cost and physical position of the dams.000 crores ($122. tunnels. if the loan liabilities remain unpaid.60. Utilizing surplus waters. to be involved in the project.7 billion). To meet the estimated budget of Rs. will require enormous holding reservoirs. the element of risk cannot be ignored where human interaction with large ecosystems is taking place on such a massive scale. Tully (2003) described the impacts on human activities as the most valid argument against the project.3. If implemented.2 ECONOMIC CHALLENGES Such a mega project cannot be completed with national funds currently at the disposal of the government. 5. as well as global capital agencies. therefore. the World Bank or the Asian Development Bank is likely to affect the economic and political independence of the nation. 3. the creditor banks do not use it to force entry into India and consolidate the control of foreign interests over the national economy.4. stressing the economy.5 RISK ASSESMENT The water surplus during July±October in the donor area of the Ganga-Brahmaputra basin is not available at the time needed (January±May) in the peninsular rivers recipient area. as capital assets under the plan will involve huge financial burdens. The Indian economy cannot finance such an enormous project on its own. The huge expenditure implicit in it will likely create fiscal problems that are difficult to manage. M.

the interlink infrastructure will also require unprecedented security arrangements and enormous resources. Dams will flood towns and canals will make villages disappear by cutting through thousands of kilometers of fertile land. leaving millions to a life of uncertainty. To secure the National Water Grid. Does the present government have the right to impose these uncertain risks on society? A project that envisages connecting the peninsular rivers will create a human disaster to rival Mohammed Tughlak¶s shifting of the capital from Delhi to Daulatabad in the fourteenth century AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 21 . The construction of dams and excavation of thousands of kilometers of canals will cause massive population displacement. stretching defense and police forces thin. Such transformations will also impose ecological risks of a nature that are bound to have unprecedented effects. Reduction in flows of rivers as a result of diversion of water will reduce purging of pollutant concentrations in certain river stretches and intensify water pollution there.water will cause reductions in land fertility and promote desertification.

1 GODAVARI-KRISHNA TRANSFERS The Godavari River (FiguGre 1) is the second largest river in India.000ha in the lower Godavari Basin.CHAPTER 4 CASE STUDY: POLLAVARAM PROJECT 4.9 million ha. As in other parts of India. provides irrigation water to 170. with a catchment area of 312. the use of groundwater to meet irrigation water demands is also a common practice. The already existing Arthur Cotton Barrage. as utilizable Cultivable area in the basin is about 18. of which 76 km3 is estimated. located downstream of the future Polavaram Reservoir site. AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 22 .812 km2 and a long-term average annual surface flow of 110 km3.

0km3 is considered to be utilizable (Amarasinghe et al. Some of these links are planned as parts of much longer transfers from the Himalayas to the Peninsula..The Krishna River Basin is the fourth largest in India with a total catchment area of 258. 2007). be seen as a µlocal¶ project. was constructed in 1852 (Figure 1) and designed to irrigate 530. and some studies have reported the ³closure´ of the basin (e. however.948 km2 and a long-term average annual surface flow of 78km3. which is to directly benefit from the Polavaram water transfer.000 ha of land.3 million ha. The Krishna Delta plays a vital role in the rice economy of the nation and. tanks and minor reservoirs are spread throughout the area. 2005). Furthermore. of which 58. The Krishna Delta Project near Vijayawada. the annual river flow at the outlet of the Krishna has decreased to some 36% of its pre-development level.. a large number of informal irrigation sources such as groundwater tube wells. Several water transfers have been proposed from the Godavari to the Krishna (Smakhtin et al. The cultivable area in the basin is about 20. The most µdownstream¶ link² Polavaram to Vijayawada (Figure 1)²can. 2007). Biggs et al. because the main aim of this link is to transfer what is perceived as µsurplus¶ water from a more water endowed Godavari to an already water-deficient and over-utilized Krishna Delta. Due to the massive surface irrigation development and the rapid expansion of groundwater irrigation. the project is expected to reduce informal irrigation and the use of groundwater in the Krishna Basin. in addition to the major dam. AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 23 .g. Three large irrigation projects are operational in the basin..

and the post-monsoon season (known as Rabi) extends from November to March.755 ha) is irrigated by bore wells.000mm. However. and 29% (39. AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 24 . tropical. The temperature varies from 448C in May to 228C in December.985 ha) is non-irrigated (GOI. suggested that almost 95% of cultivated area in the link command area is already under irrigation at present. (2007) indicate that 84% of the command area is currently irrigated with groundwater. on the right and left bank of the Godavari River. the Prakasham Barrage in the Krishna and lift irrigation from the main river channel supply surface water to the deltas. i. Average annual rainfall is 1.. with over 80% falling during the Kharif season due to the southwest monsoon.740 ha. the assumption that a significant new irrigated area will develop due to the implementation of the proposed link canal may not materialize. The project includes two canals. 2007). Therefore. The Polavaram±Vijayawada link command area is located on the right bank. water from tanks or canals. Of this area. Bhaduri et al. and 9% with water from canals. The overall population density in the command area is 543 persons per km2 with 60% of the population dependent on agriculture The total cultivable area of the Polavaram link canal is 139. according to the feasibility study from 1999. with the link canal starting from the proposed Polavaram Reservoir. a more recent survey in the Polavaram area (Bhaduri et al. is to be brought under irrigation is already being irrigated with groundwater. semi-arid to sub-humid.e. Most of the µnew¶ area that. as the existing Arthur Cotton Barrage in the Godavari. The monsoon season (known as Kharif in India) extends from June to October. with a usual annual dry spell from April to May. The climate in the command area of the Polavaram project varies from hot. 1999b).2 POLAVARAM PROJECT DESCRIPTION Figure 1 shows the proposed project including the site of the Polavaram Reservoir and the command area of the link canal. 71% (99. tanks and open head channels taking off from the river.4.

however. which has affected cropping patterns in the Krishna Delta. 2007).The Polavaram Project would allow paddy. supplemental groundwater use is common practice. 1999b). the agro-climatic conditions and local practices (GOI. The current existing cropping pattern in the area is dominated by paddy.325 MCM for irrigation. which at present hosts 250 villages with a total population of 145. 1999b) and will submerge around 63. chillies and pulses to be planted. in both the Godawari and Krishna deltas. has resulted in declining downstream flows. sugarcane and tobacco during both the Kharif and Rabi seasons (Bhaduri et al. one rice crop and one less water-intensive crop during the Rabi season is practiced (Biradar.. irrigated crop intensity is expected to reach 150%. considering soil suitability. sugarcane. However.000 ha of land. In the Godavari Delta.130 MCM (GOI. two rice crops are grown per year in the Krishna Delta. domestic supply and industry. especially through the construction of reservoirs and irrigation systems in the Krishna basin. When enough water is available.663 million cubic meters (MCM) of water to meet future irrigation and industrial requirements. The Project Plan suggests that the main left canal will transfer 3. Furthermore. Increased upstream development. while in dry years. 2007). The planned Polavaram reservoir will have an utilizable storage of 2. two paddy crops are grown. The link canal on the right bank will divert 5.000 AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 25 .

water supply is defined by the amount of precipitation that falls on a catchment or a group of catchments.3. 4.3 METHODS 4. Water supplies and demands are linked to the stream network and water allocation components via the WEAP 21 interface. In the WEAP model. according to a set of user-defined priorities. groundwater recharge. human withdrawals. where the catchment itself is the first point of depletion through evapo-transpiration. developed by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI). evaporative demands and surface and groundwater withdrawal and return flows. (2009).2. which keeps track of water allocations and accounts for groundwater and stream flow depletion and addition .1. SCENARIO FORMULATION AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 26 . is designed to evaluate water resources development and management scenarios associated with changes in biophysical and socioeconomic conditions.The model optimizes water use in a catchment using an iterative Linear Programming algorithm which seeks to maximize the water delivered to demand sites. the model progressively restricts water allocation to demand sites with the lowest priority. Overview of the WEAP 21 model The Water Evaluation and Planning Model (WEAP).4. This supply is progressively depleted through natural processes. More details of the model are available in SEI (2001) and Yates et al. where 1 is the highest priority and 99 is the lowest priority. Thus. or enhanced through accumulations/storages. The core of the model is a water balance equation that includes such components as catchment-scale rainfall-runoff processes. the WEAP 21 model adopts a broad definition of water demand. When water is limited.3. Demand sites are assigned a priority that ranges between 1 and 99.

and a cropping pattern of paddy during the monsoon and a low water-intensive crop (e. the anticipated benefits of building the Polavaram Reservoir and the link canal system are mainly due to improved water supply leading to increases in cropping intensity and yields. Current water use under current supply and demand network. . barrages and right and left bank command areas. Therefore. the agricultural land in the link command area was kept constant. Each crop AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 27 . ground water and the river channel. The impacts of the Polavaram project were assessed by running the above two main scenarios under different crop rotation systems: i) paddy-paddy. As 95% of the cultivable area is already under irrigation (Bhaduri et al. 2007). These cropping patterns reflect the regional practice of planting two paddy crops or sugarcane if farmers perceive no water scarcity.. the physiographic setting of the link canal. Therefore. The water sources are groundwater and the river channel. industrial and livestock water demands were kept constant in all runs. in both scenarios. tobacco) during the dry season under water scarce conditions. The water source is the Polavaram Reservoir and the link canal. ii) paddy-pulses (representing a low water intensity crop) and iii) sugarcane only. The domestic. Figure 1 illustrates. in a simplified way.g. two main scenarios were simulated: . agriculture is still the major water user compared to domestic and industrial demands (Table 1) and increased agricultural production is the main goal of the Polavaram project. Water supply and demand after the construction of the Polavaram project. Scenario 1²Reference Scenario. In both the Krishna and Godavari Deltas. it was assumed that substantial increases in irrigated area will not be possible.In order to assess whether the planned water transfer would satisfy the growing water demands in the Polavaram link command area. Scenario 2²With the Polavaram reservoir and Link canal. pulses. and also analyze its hydrologic impacts outside of the command area.

not including loss and reuse) for domestic. the link canal command area was divided into subcatchments based on a drainage map extracted from a digital elevation model (DEM). The demand nodes that were closer to the sources of water supply were given higher priorities. Water demand for 2003 (MCM. the sub-catchment represents the hydrological demand unit. industry and livestock. However. AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 28 .rotation condition was run with and without the inclusion of environmental flow (EF) requirements. Table 4. The results of the scenarios were compared and discussed in terms of unmet water demands. however. nodes corresponding to agricultural and domestic demand were created. only one demand node representing livestock and one demand node representing industrial demand were created for the entire command area. Therefore. though no links are shown in Figure 1). Domestic water demand was given the first priority. industry.3. followed by agriculture. industry and livestock²in that order. 4. In the model. In the model set up.3. For the 6 sub-catchments that fell under the link command area (labeled R1±R6 in tables and figures presented here. Arthur Cotton command area and the left bank canal area. the mandals in the command area were assigned to the sub-catchments by merging them together using a Geographic Information System (GIS). Water demand data were available at mandal level (India¶s third-level administrative subdivision after State and District). Data and WEAP set up and simulations The starting point of the analysis was the development of water demands in the study area: from agriculture. as livestock and industrial water demands were very small. Each demand in the model is represented by a demand node.1. Monthly water demands from each node were assigned a priority level and linked to its available sources of water supply. livestock and agricultural demand from the catchments within the link command area (R1±R6). the domestic sector.

. b. downstream of the proposed Polavaram Reservoir and command area (Figure 1). The Arthur Cotton and Prakasham Barrage irrigation command areas lie in the Krishna and Godavari Deltas. . 1999b). demands from mandals on the left bank command area of the Godavari River (Figure1).The agricultural water demand for each sub-catchment was calculated using the FAO Crop Requirements Method option in the WEAP model (FAO. irrigation demands from the Prakasham Barrage. c. Water demands from outside the link command area (but still to be affected by the proposed water transfer) were also added to the model set up. livestock and industrial water demands were calculated using the statistical reports of the Indian Government (GoAP. 2003a. d). however. In Scenario 2. These additional demand sites were not represented in the model as catchments. but as sites where a fixed quantity of water is abstracted from the sources of supply on a monthly basis. the AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 29 . based on the quantity of water to be transferred from the left bank canal (GOI. The domestic. Each demand site was assigned a priority. irrigation demands from the Arthur Cotton Barrage. These additional demands included: . In Scenario 1. which determined the water allocation order. 1998). the Arthur Cotton Barrage command area in the Godavari Delta was given a higher priority than the irrigation demands in the link command area catchments.

The sources of water supply that were built into the model were precipitation (for the catchments).link command area demands were given a higher priority than the Lower Delta. The reservoir releases were based on seasonal variations in water demand i.325 MCM of water per annum.130 MCM. The gross storage capacity of the reservoir is to be 5. The method takes into account the limitations of available hydrological and ecological information in India at present. The environmental flow requirements were estimated using the method described by Smakhtin & Anputhas (2006). Ground water in the model was represented by a node and water availability was calculated based on the storage capacity and natural recharge values which were based on GoAP (1995. The method is based on the use of a flow duration curve²a cumulative distribution function of monthly flow time series. The maximum withdrawal rates from groundwater were based on the storage capacity and groundwater recharge rates for the area.511MCM and the live storage is 2. more water is transferred during the dry season. 1999b). The EF calculated for the lowest acceptable category D (µlargely modified¶ rivers) were used in this analysis. 2006). the highest AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 30 .e. Surface water flows in the Krishna and Godavari were obtained from river gauging stations upstream of the Polavaram project. The annual evaporation loss from the reservoir has been estimated to be 989 MCM. The curve is calculated for several categories of aquatic ecosystem protection²from µlargely natural¶ to µseverely modified¶²and the required EF volume and elements of flow variability are set to progressively reduce with the decreasing level of ecosystem protection.ecological theory. The Polavaram Reservoir was simulated using the salient features published in the government feasibility report (GOI. where the link canal is designed to transfer 5. but ensures that elements of natural flow variability are preserved in the estimated environmental flow time series. In the model runs with the inclusion of environmental flow requirements. as required by contemporary hydro. surface water and groundwater. Precipitation supply was calculated based on monthly data from a climate station located in the Krishna Delta.

met demands for other uses (agriculture. As expected. The runs with the inclusion of environmental flow requirements were run with a crop rotation of paddy-paddy and paddy-pulses. 1999b). For example.1. planting only one paddy crop during the rainy season and pulses (a low water intensity crop) during a Rabi season decreased water deficits by up to 48% (Figure 2). The un-met demands are the highest for the simulation that combines a paddy-paddy rotation with environmental flow requirements (Figure 2).643 MCM for a paddy-paddy system.199 MCM for irrigation and 378 MCM for domestic and industrial use (GOI. paddy-paddy with environmental flows and paddy-pulse with environmental flows. corresponding to the least acceptable Environmental Management Class D) a high priority in the water allocation scheme.4 Results and discussions 4. domestic use. all sugarcane. paddy-pulse. industry and livestock uses under different simulation runs: paddy-paddy. Simulations were conducted over the period from June 1991 to May 2005.4. The unmet demands occur in all months except July and August (peak of the monsoon). industry. Changing cropping pattern may decrease the unmet demands. Scenario 1: Reference scenario with current water supply and use Under the current system of water use. Figure 2 shows the cumulative monthly average unmet demands for agriculture.priority was given to environmental demands. and domestic). Annual demands from the Arthur Cotton Barrage are 8. giving EF (even very small environmental flow requirements. Assuming these demands and a paddy-paddy cropping system. increased the un. the average annual un-met demand for a period from June 1991 to May 2004 in the command area of the link canal is 1. 4. AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 31 .

(2007) found that groundwater is used in this area. and with the inclusion of environmental flows. The model also considered loss and reuse during transmission.139 MCM (GOI. Consequently. Therefore. Scenario 1: monthly average (1991±2004) unmet demands from agriculture. the unmet surface water demands at present are probably being met by groundwater extraction. industry and livestock for the subwatershed falling under the link command area for different cropping patterns. The water deficit in the Godavari Delta is in the Rabi and dry seasons (December to May. surface water use and groundwater use. There is no deficit in the months from June to November. domestic use. the annual total demand is 5. the mean annual simulated unmet demand for the command area of the Arthur Cotton Barrage in the Godavari Delta is 818 MCM. This constitutes 10% of the mean total annual demands. Information on groundwater was not available for the areas outside of the Polavaram link command area.Fig. All cases include conjunctive water use. The model calculated 27 MCM of annual average unmet demand after 2003. the analysis shows that although there may be surplus water during the Kharif season. 2. Figure 3). Bhaduri et al. In the area supplied by the Prakasham Barrage in the Krishna Delta. a mean annual un-met demand of 2. Similarly. in other months there is a deficit in the Godavari Delta which is being met by ground water. 1999b).057 MCM was calculated for the left bank AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 32 . Therefore the demands in the model were linked to surface water supplies.

3.command area in the Godavari. Annual analysis for the Godavari showed that during the 14 year modeling period. Similar to the Arthur Cotton Barrage command area. the water deficit in the left bank command area is only in the Rabi and dry seasons (December to May. In order to check if estimated EF requirements are being met in the Krishna Delta. when water demand for agriculture is high. irrigation water demand will increase. the situation in recent years has deteriorated as more water is being used upstream for various purposes. Figure 3). Figure 5 illustrates that the unmet EF requirements are highest in June. Delays in the onset of the rainy season will affect water available for EF. the EF for Class D were plotted against observed flow from the gauging station at Vijayawada (Figure 4). Therefore. The Vijayawada gauge is downstream of the Prakasham Barrage (Figure 1). AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 33 . the EF requirements are not met during the dryer years (based on rainfall data). The EF for class D are met from August to November. The unmet EF plot shown in Figure 5 is simulated with a paddy-paddy cropping pattern. Scenario 1: monthly average (1991±2004) unmet demands based on water requirements from the Arthur Cotton Barrage and the Polavaram left bank command area. if the monsoon does not start in June. As shown in Figure 4. Paddy sowing was assumed to start in June. under present conditions. Fig.

then there is a deficit in the link command area under a paddy-paddy cropping system. one can conclude water deficits within the link command area have decreased. AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 34 . increases the unmet demands during the months from January to June (Figure 7). Class D environmental flow requirements plotted against measured flow from the gauging station at Vijayawada. industry and livestock for the link command area under different cropping patterns as well as with EF requirements. Figure 7 shows monthly average unmet demand (for 1991± 2004) from agriculture. respectively. 4. This is definitely an improvement for the link command area compared with scenario 1 (Figure 2) where the unmet demands are one order of magnitude higher. if EF requirements are included.270 MCM. and changing cropping pattern to paddy-pulses almost nullifies the unmet demands which exist under other crop rotations (Figure 7). When comparing these values to Scenario 1 in Figure 2. 4. Introducing EF for downstream Krishna and Godavari.Fig. and livestock requirements within the link command area (Figure 6). The unmet demands occur during the period from January to June. The mean annual unmet demands for the left bank command area and the Arthur Cotton Barrage command area were 799 MCM and 5. domestic. However. domestic use.4. especially coupled with a paddy-paddy cropping pattern.2 Scenario 2 : with the Polavaram reservoir and link canal The simulations with the link canal and reservoir show that there are minimal unmet demands for agriculture.

only during the Rabi and summer seasons. however. which is expected since water in the Godavari is being stored and diverted to the Polavaram command area. which was a particularly dry year. there is a water deficit in the Arthur Cotton command area only in the Rabi and summer seasons (December to May). but higher in the Arthur Cotton Barrage command area. As with the current situation (Scenario 1).Compared to Scenario 1. The situation of un-met demands for the Prakasham Barrage irrigation area shows improvement as there was no water deficit. there will be an increased deficit in the Arthur Cotton Barrage command area. the water deficit is smaller in the left bank command area. This deficit is. analysis with the link canal (Scenario 2) showed that although the pressure on water resources within the left and right Fig. Scenario 1: unmet environmental water demand under current conditions with a paddy-paddy cropping pattern. with the exception of 2003. Therefore. Environmental flows are given the highest priority and a paddy-paddy cropping pattern is simulated. This water deficit occurs again only in March and can be alleviated by growing pulses or another low water-intensive crop during the Rabi season. 5. AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 35 . bank command areas reduces.

4. Comparing scenario 1 and 2 In the two analyses (Scenarios 1 and 2). domestic use.Scenario2:monthly average (1991-2004) unmet demand from agriculture. demands were linked to surface water Fig. Scenario2:monthlyaverage(1991±2005)unmet water demand sundera paddy-paddy crop rotation. All cases include conjunctive water use. industry and livestock for the link command area under different cropping patterns. Fig.3.6. and with the inclusion of environmental flows. AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 36 .7. Unmet demands in the link command area are minimal compared to those in the Arthur Cotton Barrage area and left bank. demands from the mandals in the link command area were also supplied with groundwater. but due to the lack of groundwater recharge data from the Arthur Cotton Barrage. Prakasham Barrage and the left bank command area. surface water use and groundwater use.4.

1999b) were used to simulate the storage volumes of the proposed Polavaram reservoir.381 MCM) during every dry season. some of this un-met demand is met by groundwater. 2000 and 2003. The storage in the Polavaram reservoir. It is possible that increased aquifer recharge due to irrigation in the Polavaram link command area will provide additional groundwater resources for the Lower Delta where the Arthur Cotton Barrage command area is located. however. where paddy sowing was set to start in June. if there is an increase in the pumping of groundwater in the Lower Delta to maintain the existing agricultural production (due to less water delivered). A key objective of the Polavaram Project is to reduce groundwater use. Therefore. The reservoir was found to reach the inactive zone (3. Therefore. the reservoir does not also provide water to compensate for delays in the onset of the monsoon rains. In reality. which means that the water stored during each monsoon will be utilized during the dry season of that same year. Therefore. 1997. more studies are necessary to make accurate predictions on the sustainability of groundwater use. However. as mentioned above. EF requirements were set under a paddy-paddy cropping pattern. AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 37 . June has the highest un-met EF for the Godavari. if the monsoon rains (which usually start in June) are delayed then there will be un-met demands for agriculture as well as for EF requirements. as water demands for agriculture are high during this month. Analysis of the Godavari river flows in the delta showed that during the 13-year modeling period. In the simulation.availability. the EF requirements were not met during June in 1993. Published monthly net evaporation was also used to calculate evaporation losses from the reservoir. is utilized within each year. in this case. The storage capacity of the reservoir does not provide storage and ensure water for inter-annual variations. In both scenarios. Salient features published in the government feasibility report (GOI. this objective will not be met and the pressure on the natural aquifers will increase.

However. In this study. Meeting EF requirements in the Krishna is a bigger problem than in the Godavari and the situation is not likely to improve even after the Polavaram project. it will not be possible to meet EF requirements in June. Similarly.5 CONCLUSION In this study. detailed monthly analysis was done to test the feasibility of the Polavaram Reservoir and water transfer scheme. also recommended to integrate an economic analysis into the assessment. for example by planting paddy during the monsoon season and a low water-intensive crop such as pulses in the dry season in the link command area. which is being supplied water through the Arthur Cotton Barrage. The water deficits exist only in the dry months. water deficits may simply be transferred from one area to another. this will not be enough to continue the present water use patterns in the Arthur Cotton Barrage command area. In the Godavari. Changing cropping patterns. It is. The study suggests that water resources management in the region has to be done on a seasonal basis by taking monthly variability into consideration. as most of the water that is being transferred will be used for en route irrigation. A part of the problem is that the storage capacity of the proposed Polavaram Reservoir may not be sufficient to meet the planned irrigation requirements and other demands in the link command area. Therefore. the need to ensure EF should also be considered in the context of seasonal variability. as well in the Arthur Cotton and left bank areas. however. this will result in increased water deficits during Rabi and summer months in the Lower Godavari Delta. will decrease unmet demands for the Lower Godavari Delta. the analysis of the water transfer is done purely on hydrological terms. as it is mostly in the dry months that water allocation problems become critical. just before the start of the monsoon. However. whereby the benefits of the project¶s incremental water supply AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 38 . as the main justification for the NRLP is based on the transfer of µsurplus¶ water to µdeficit¶ basins. The simulations show that the proposed Polavaram Reservoir and link canal will reduce the seasonal pressure on water resources for the proposed command area of the reservoir.4. if the onset of the rainy season is delayed.

REFRENCES AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 39 . The planning of water transfer schemes should also look at the land and production loss. careful integrated planning and analysis is necessary to ensure that proposed high investment schemes are able to operate as planned and can deliver the expected long-term benefits.can be compared against the losses (e. Information available on economic and social analysis look similarly fragmented Inter-basin water transfers have been an integral part of water resources management all over the world. second season rice crop in the Godavari Delta). However. it was not always possible and hence a number of assumptions had to be made. displacement costs and other impacts associated with water infrastructure development. While all possible attempts have been made by the authors to acquire the best input data available.g.

Goyal. Draft for initial consultative meeting on 8 February 2003. Falkenmark. 2003. Dasgupta. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Gujja. 1988. Delhi (January 16). 6. J. S. Chambers. 2003. AN ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL RIVER LINKING PROJECT 40 . R. New Delhi: Laxmi Publications. Garg. Is interlinking of rivers viable? Chandigarh: The Tribune (March 13). 1989. Managing canal irrigation: Practical analysis from South Asia. River water disputes in India. Fresh water: Time for a modified approach. Experts raise doubts about river linking project. 5. B. Ambio 15 (4): 194 ±200. 2. M. K. Chennai: The Hindu (January 31). A civil society dialogue on the subject of India¶s proposed interlinking of rivers. 2003.1. 1999. 4. 3. M.