Several years of weak monsoon seasons has left India in the midst of an extraordinary drought, requiring extraordinary measures. In this case, diverting water from rivers across the country to areas hardest hit by the lack of water. From the BBC:
India is set to divert water from its rivers to deal with a severe drought, a senior minister has told the BBC.
Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti said transferring water, including from major rivers like the Brahmaputra and the Ganges, to drought-prone areas is now her government’s top priority.
At least 330 million people are affected by drought in India.
The drought is taking place as a heat wave extends across much of India, with temperatures in excess of 40C.
The Inter Linking of Rivers (ILR) has 30 links planned for water-transfer, 14 of them fed by Himalayan glaciers in the north of the country and 16 in peninsular India.
Environmentalists have opposed the project, arguing it will invite ecological disaster but the Supreme Court has ordered its implementation.
“Interlinking of rivers is our prime agenda and we have got the people’s support and I am determined to do it on the fast track,” Ms Bharti said.
“We are going ahead with five links [of the rivers] now and the first one, the Ken-Betwa link [in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh] is going to start any time now.
“And then we will have the Damnaganga-Pinjal interlink which will sort out the Mumbai drinking water facility.”
Ms Bharti said the river-linking project would be the first in Indian history since independence in 1947.
There were also other projects aimed at supplying water for irrigation and drinking in the next few years and the ILR was a long-term scheme, she added.
Following two consecutive bad monsoons, India is facing one of its worst droughts.
Of its 29 states, nearly half were reported to have suffered from severe water crisis this dry season. The worst hit have been Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, among others.
The federal government in Delhi has had to send trains carrying water to the worst affected places.
India has faced a water crisis for years. Its ground waters have depleted to alarming levels, mainly because of unsustainable extraction for agriculture and industries.