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River-linking to cost Rs. 5-lakh crore (GS Mains Paper III, Topic : Inter-linking of rivers)

Estimated Expenditure required for inter-linking of rivers
The government expects to spend a massive Rs 5,60,000 crore on various river interlinking (ILR) projects. Though this is only a projection and not timebound — as none of these projects are underway and costs could be dramatically revised — it’s roughly four per cent of India’s economy, now valued at Rs 1,35,00,000 crore, and significantly more than what India spends on either scientific research, the social sector or defence.

Scale of Inter-linking of rivers
The National Water Development Agency — the central agency that plans and prepares cost estimates for such projects — has so far identified 16 peninsular rivers and 14 Himalayan rivers that could potentially be linked to transfer water. The peninsular component of the project could likely cost Rs 1,85,000 crore and the Himalayan Rs 3,75,000 crore.

Projects at advanced state
ILR projects at the most advanced state of planning are those involving building canals and storage connecting the Ken and Betwa rivers in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh; the Damanganga and Pinjal rivers involving water from Gujarat and Maharashtra. Pre-feasibility reports of 36 Intra-State link proposals out of 46 proposals of Intra-State links had also been completed, the Minister added.

Ken-Betwa link controversy
The controversial Ken-Betwa link that will partially submerge the Panna Tiger sanctuary, is yet to be cleared by the National Wild Life Board and discussions are on between the Water Resources Ministry and the Ministry of Environment and Forests to mitigate the potential loss of forests. The Government is planning to begin implementing this as a model ILR project, which will benefit the drought prone areas of Bundelkhand region. . 

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