Indian government seem to be determined to go ahead with the mammoth national river link project (NRLP) to link 14 Himalayan rivers in the north and 16 peninsular rivers in the south of India without consulting co-riparian nations, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. This displays a total disregard for international norms and treaties on the part of India. Indian government also appear to be indifferent to the disastrous consequences that the project will have on the northern and north-eastern states of their own country. Experts opine that connecting the peninsular rivers to the Himalayan rivers would alter the natural drainage system of the entire region with severe adverse consequences. The proposed 40,000 km long inland waterways will also cause massive human displacement.
Water scarcity and their cumulative effects may lead to internal and external migration of millions of people in the region. India’s well known environmental scientist Dr. Vandana Shiva is of the opinion that no serious studies have been done on the river linking project. The project has the potential to cause massive and irreparable damage to the entire region including loss of biodiversity and wild life and may also trigger seismic tremors.
This unilateral inter-basin transfer of water from transnational rivers flowing from Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan into Bangladesh through India would affect the natural discharge of the Ganga (Ganges)-Brahmaputra-Meghna river system. Diverting water from the natural courses of so many great rivers is bound to have serious environmental impact on the regions as a whole. This may also lead to a deterioration of relationship among the neighbours producing new alignments and polarisation.
India needs to scrap this project immediately and consult all co-riparian nations (China, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh) for a proper management of the Ganga (Ganges)-Brahmaputra-Meghna basin. As Bangladesh will be adversely affected by the project I urge the Government of Bangladesh to take up the issue with the Indian Government and other regional partners in right earnest and without delay.