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River Linking Project: Learning from Experience


Ramaswamy R. Iyer

TRAGEDY OF COMMONS: KERALA EXPERIENCE IN RIVER LINKING
By S.P. Ravi
River Research Centre, Kerala and South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, Delhi, 2004, pp. 146, Rs. 120.00

VOLUME XXIX NUMBER 6 June 2005

Among the thirty links envisaged by the Central Government’s ‘Inter-Linking of Rivers’ (ILR) Project is one that concerns Kerala and Tamil Nadu, namely, the Pamba-Achankovil-Vaippar Link. There is much opposition to that proposed link in Kerala (in civil society, in the media, among the intellectuals, and in the State Government). This book will help us to understand why.   A point often made by the proponents and supporters of the ILR Project is that river-links and inter-basin transfers are not new ideas but have had a long history going back to the 19th century; and among the success stories cited in support of the project are the Mullapperiyar and Parambikulam Aliyar projects in the south. The Central Government view of these projects, at the bureaucratic and technocratic levels, is that they have brought great benefits to the people and are shining examples of inter-state cooperation. They are seen as strong arguments in favour of the ILR Project and convincing answers to its critics. The perception in Kerala is entirely different. The treaties or Agreements relating to these projects are widely regarded as the results of unequal negotiations, imposed on a weaker state by a more powerful one, and very adverse to Kerala’s interests. The water-sharing under the Agreements is considered to be grossly unfair; the compensations or tariffs payable by Tamil Nadu to Kerala to be shockingly meagre; and the injury and damage inflicted on Kerala to be enormous. That understanding of past experience leads to serious misgivings in Kerala about the proposed Pamba-Achankovil-Vaippar Link. Two years ago, some civil-society river-protection groups (Puzha Samrakshana Samitis) organized a well-attended conference on the ILR Project at Thrissur, and followed it up by undertaking a study of the Project in the light of past experience. This little book is the outcome. It discusses the Parambikulam Aliyar Project in some detail, the Mullapperiyar Project and the Bhavani diversions (and Siruvani and other schemes) more briefly, brings that experience to bear on an examination of the bigger ILR Project, and comes to strongly adverse conclusions.   The book is presented as a scholarly exercise, and undoubtedly much work has gone into it. However, without in any way denigrating those efforts, it needs to be stated that this is not really a ‘book’ in the full sense of the term. It is more in the nature of campaign literature, using that term in a purely descriptive ...


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