Airing scepticism over the inter-linking of rivers serving the desired purpose, social activist Medha Patkar on Sunday charged Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar with embarking on the project in the state without consulting people.
“I am apprehensive about the river inter-linking project. In fact, if manipulating rivers was so effective then the chronic flood caused by Koshi river should have stopped after the construction of dams,” said Patkar, while speaking at the ninth biennial national conference of the public movements on environmental issues.
If the construction of dams on Koshi river cannot mitigate floods in Eastern Bihar, then the inter-linking of rivers too would prove to be a wasteful exercise, said Patkar, while describing the inter-linking of river projects as a “dangerous” exercise.
While charging Kumar with going ahead with such projects without holding consultations with the people, Patkar also attacked Kumar for ignoring environmental hazards and said that though he did not bring the Special Economic Zone in the state he has “allowed setting up of asbestos factories and environment-unfriendly industrial units even as efforts have been made to suppress the people’s voice on environment issues.”
She also apprehended trouble in Bihar over the land acquisition for industrialisation as was being espoused by the Chief Minister and said that the state could face similar situation and politics over acquiring land for industries as had happened in West Bengal.
There should also be a debate over construction of dams and its adverse impact on environment under the inter-linking of rivers projects, Patkar said. There could be conflict between the people of different regions on the water issue as was happening between the people of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, she said, adding that the interlinking of rivers could not move forward in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh on similar concerns.
Patkar said that she deemed the exercise to inter-link rivers as a dangerous one as it will not be only state-specific project and there will be talks to link the river Ganga with Brahmaputra and Cauveri rivers too.
The inter-linking of rivers will also jeopardise the people’s right of the rivers in their areas following diversion of water to other region, added Patkar. There should also be debate over construction of dams and its adverse impact on environment under the inter-linking of rivers projects, Patkar added.
On public agitations for eradication of corruption from public life and political system, she said that the civil society should continue to apply moral pressure to seek cleansing of various vices gripping the system.