The Sarasvati for a river grid
A VERY Happy New Year to the readers of this column and Madrascapes. Here's a warm thought to get the New Year off to a happy start. If we can successfully implement the Golden (Road) Quadrilateral and the North-South, East-West superhighways, as we are now doing, we can as efficiently create a national river network, believes Dr.S. Kalayanaraman, formerly of the Asian Development Bank and now heading the Sarasvati Research Centre in Madras, a unit of the Akhila Bharatiya Itihasa Sankalana Yojana. And if you listen to one of his enthusiastic and lucid presentations, as I did recently, you too are likely to come away convinced that this is the way to go to make this country bloom.
The grand plan that hundreds of scientists and engineers are working on is a two-part one, according to Kalyanaraman. At the heart of the plan is the perennially water-rich Brahmaputra, which, from time to time, devastates the Northeast States and, as the Padma, Bangladesh. Linking the Brahmaputra to the Kaveri - and possibly even to the Tambraparni and thence to Kanniyakumari - is the first part of the plan. This will solve the water-related problems of the East, the Deccan and the South, state the planners. The second part of the plan calls for linking the Ganga to the resurrected Sarasvati to provide the north-western desert with perennial water.
Part one of the plan will, obviously have various political implications. The geography of the Brahmaputra has it flowing through the North-eastern states before taking an abrupt 90-degree turn south into Bangladesh and on to the sea. The proposed water grid has the Brahmaputra being linked with the Ganga through the chicken neck in Bengal and then from the Ganga to the south. But to the concern about what Bangladesh's reaction to this diversion would be, Kalyanaraman points out that it would help save Bangladesh from its annual floods while at the same time providing a regulated supply which both countries could manage. If the one successful `joint venture' between Pakistan and India for over 50 years has been the Indus Waters Treaty, surely a similar successful accord is possible in the east, he feels.
As for the legendary Sarasvati, to which the Vedas devoted 72 slokas against just one for the Ganga, its entire course of 1600 km from Manasarovar in Tibet to Somnath in Saurashtra, has now been re-discovered and mapped. And with that discovery, the river can be revived and linked to both the Indira Gandhi Canal and the Ganga to make the desert bloom, states Kalyanaraman. The rediscovered Sarasvati is a bonanza to not only hydrologists but also to archaeologists. The great civilisation nurtured on its banks and mentioned in the Mahabharata is no myth; over 2000 archaeological sites have been found on the river's banks and scores of them are being worked on, says Kalyanaraman. There are, I am told, over 12,500 satellite images of the 6 km wide river and its banks now available, showing a wealth of information about a river, which could make India never again food-short.
Pointing out that in the first 50 years of independence, India increased irrigated land from 25 mha to 90 mha, and food grain from 23 mt to 90 mt, Kalyanaraman holds that the 14,500 km national river grid being dicussed, including using the Sarasvati for a 40 foot deep channel, will increase irrigated acreage to 150 mha and foodgrain to 400 mt. The secret to this success is making best use of the run-off from the Himalaya; the Himalaya can provide for the two-and - a-half billion people of India and China for 10,000 years, claims Kalyanaraman. Now that's a heart-warming thought for the New Year - particularly if such faith can help resolve simpler issues as the Kaveri and Krishna waters.
Any one interested in more details can contact Dr. Kalyanaraman at email@example.com.
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