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Sunday, October 17, 2010

River linking project may demand a huge environmental cost

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Union Minister of Environment and Forest, Jairam Ramesh declared on October 3, 2010 that linking of two major rivers of North Bengal would not be allowed through the Buxa Tiger Reserve- reports The Hindu, India’s National News Paper.

Earlier it was proposed that the elephant corridor would be split into two parts. A number of trees too were proposed to be cut down making a canal. However, when the Union Minister Mr. Ramesh visited North Bengal on October 1, 2010, the forest officials reported him about the matter.

In response to the matter detailed before the Union Minister, he told to take up the matter. He further said that the project would not be allowed if Buxa was feared to get submerged, and an alternative might be sought.

Image:1 The  Teesta River- the life line of Skkim and East Bengal
courtesy: Michael Melbourne
on a visit to the Darjeeling area in November 1977

A link canal of about 137km has been proposed to be dug out between Teesta and Sankosh rivers. Out of 137 km of the length of the canal, 24 km is to be run through Bengal Tiger Reserve and another 35 km through forest area.

The National Institute of Hydrology’s Water Resource System Division is of the opinion that the link canal was important component in the planned link among Manas, Sankosh, Teesta and the Ganga that would connect the Ganga and Brahmaputra- reports the paper. Dams have been proposed to be constructed as part of the project at Manas and Sankosh. This proposed link is to pass through parts of North Bengal that shares a border with Bangladesh. It may raise security concerns too.

Image-2: Sankosh River - a lifeline of Bhutan and East Bengal

It is reported that the project may cause a major destruction in the forest area by splitting the elephant corridor which has already been fragmented by the Indian Railways.

On the other hand hundreds of trees would have to be chopped if a canal of 8 to 10 km is constructed through the area. In this case, the efforts of the conservation of the wildlife like rhino and tiger are also expected to be hampered besides irreparable damage caused to herbs, shrubs, soil and other components of area’s biological diversity.

Image: 3 Strategic map of river linking programme

The National Water Commission suggested in year 2009 an alternate route between Jagihopa and Faraka through Teesta which passes through the forest free zone. It is reported that the project, if implemented would demand a huge environmental cost.

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