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  • Plan to divert Indian rivers angers neighbouring nations

A controversial plan to connect more than 30 rivers in India to divert water to areas within the country which need it most has been approved by the Indian Supreme Court, sparking concern from neighbouring nations.

The scheme would link 30 rivers and involve the building of 80 dams, with a view to diverting water to areas that need it most for irrigation, power and human consumption. It could cost US$120 billion over the 16 years estimated for its completion.

Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal may all be affected by the plan, as they are either downstream from major Indian rivers or have tributaries feeding into rivers affected by the plan, according to the BBC News article.

Ministers from the three countries said they did not hear directly from the Indian government about the project.

We can never agree to it, Ramesh Chandra Sen, Bangladesh's water resources minister told BBC News. Our agriculture, economy and our lives depend on these rivers, and we cannot imagine their waters being diverted.

A senior Nepali water expert, Santa Bahadur Pun, said that Nepali politicians might not be able to secure a good deal for allowing India to build dams and reservoirs in Nepalese territory.

They should be focusing on making India pay for the downstream benefits it would be getting from its river-linking infrastructures in Nepal, he told BBC News.

Critics say the project would also have huge environmental consequences, and might not be feasible on technical grounds. Some observers say some states are already engaged in long-running water-sharing disputes, and not all states may be willing to allow water in their rivers to be diverted, according to BBC News.

India is yet to respond to regional criticism of its multi-billion-dollar project, which was first announced by the government 2002.

The project also received criticism from within the country, where a group of concerned citizens have urged the government to carry out a review of the Supreme Court's decision, saying the project had not undergone examination and evaluation processes, according to The Hindu.

In a statement, the group called the project a reckless, major re-designing of the geography of the country and said the decision ignored a substantial body of experts that was highly critical of the scheme.

The project not only holds the potential of generating new inter-state conflicts but has serious international dimensions that need to be considered. Both Nepal and Bangladesh have expressed serious apprehensions about India's rivers linking project, they said.

Link to full article in BBC News

Link to full article in The Hindu

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