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Integrated Water Resource Management—Multipurpose River Valley Projects In India

Multiple purposes served by the multipurpose river valley projects are to

  1. prevent flood
  2. provide water for irrigation
  3. improve navigation of water
  4. generate hydro-electric power
  5. improve pisciculture, develop tourist spots, construction of roads over the embankments etc.

Some of the major multipurpose river valley projects in India are as follows:

  1. Damodar Valley Project: This is the first multipurpose river valley project in India, established in 1948 on the Damodar and its tributaries, serving the states of West Bengal and Jharkhand. The Damodar Valley Corporation constructed four major dams at Tilaiya, Konar, Maithon and Panchet Hill. There are three thermal power stations (at Bokaro, Durgapur and Chandrapura) and three hydel power stations (at Maithon, Panchet and Tilaiya) to regulate the flow of Damodar which is very prone to floods and referred to as the ‘Sorrow of Bengal’.
  2. Bhakra Nangal Project: The Bhakra dam is the highest dam in India. This multipurpose river valley project is built on Sutlej, Ravi and Beas rivers. Dams are constructed at Bhakra and Nangal, and the reservoir is called Govind Sagar. A number of irrigation canals are constructed in this project and the Indira Gandhi Canal, passing through Rajasthan, has spread agriculture to the Indian desert. There are hydel power stations to supply power to the project area. The beneficiary states are mainly Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan.
  3. Hirakud Project on Mahanadi serves Orissa. It is the longest dam in India.
  4. Nagarjuna Sagar Project on Krishna, set up in Andhra Pradesh.
  5. Sardar Sarovar Project on Narmada serves Maharashtra and Gujarat.
  6. Tungabhadra Project on Tungabhadra serves Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

Disadvantages of Multipurpose River Valley Project

  • Regulating the river flow by dams causes sedimentation at the reservoir bed.
  • Dams cause the river channels to distribute, causing difficulties for aquatic life.
  • Creation of the reservoir causes a large scale submergence of forests and land areas. In some cases, the agricultural land gets submerged, resulting in a large-scale displacement of local people. For example, the Tehri Dam Project and the Sardar Sarovar Project had resulted in loss of livelihood of the villages due to submergence of land.
  • Supply of irrigation water has changed the agricultural pattern. Farmers in irrigated fields have chosen to produce commercial crops which utilise more water. In many places, this has led to salinisation of the soil and other ecological consequences, the gap between the rich and the poor farmers has widened.
  • Inter-state water disputes are on the rise. Constructing dams on the upper reaches of the river usually reduce the water flow in the lower reaches. This adversely affects the agricultural and industrial production in the lower basin.
  • Flood control has not been successful in all multipurpose projects. Increased sedimentation has reduced the water-holding capacity of the reservoirs. During times of heavy rainfall, the reservoirs cannot hold the excess water, which is then released from the dams. This further aggravates the flood situation downstream. The big dams and reservoirs are deterrents to flood management, in such cases.

Harvesting Water—A Means of Water Recharge

  • A socio-economic and viable alternative to multipurpose projects.
  • In use, even in ancient India, to store and reuse water
  1. in mountainous areas, people build diversion channels for agriculture.
  2. in Rajasthan, flat roof-tops are used to store rainwater for drinking purpose.
  3. inundation channels are constructed in the flood plains of Bengal, used for irrigation.
  4. rainwater storage structures are created in arid areas of Rajasthan, to moisten the soil.
  5. rainwater harvesting can be done by storing rainwater, filter through sand and bricks and store in an underground sump. Water thus stored can be drawn out later through wells. This can be used not only in the arid regions of the country, but also in urban and rural areas to supplement the water supply from the municipal and administrative bodies. In many urban metropolises, this method is viewed as an essential means to supplement the water supply to meet the excessive demand, especially in the summer when the supply reduces.

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