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Interlinking of rivers is likely to impact monsoon cycles and the environment adversely in the longer term and pose socio-economic challenges, several experts pointed out while speaking in the context of the Ken and Betwa river linking project in the parched Bundelkhand region.

The Ken-Betwa scheme, the first being implemented under the National River Linking Project (NRLP), seeks to bring nearly 11 lakh hectares of land under irrigation in the parched Bundelkhand region straddling Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

How river linking projects can adversely affect the monsoon cycle?

Speaking on the topic, Manoj Misra, convenor of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, told news agency PTI, “When water of a river is diverted and it merges in sea, it takes all its sediments with it to the sea. It is a hypothesis that the kind of inter-linking we have planned is that for all we know the monsoonal systems may get impacted."

Adding to this, Himanshu Thakkar, working as coordinator of South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), said, “Sea's thermal and salinity gradient are two drivers of monsoon which can get disturbed by river-linking projects."

"By river-linking, you are stopping flow of fresh water to sea and the salinity gradient is also reduced and the silt component which creates the Gangetic plain is also impacted. So that creates a different dynamic and all these are drivers of monsoon. So when you are disturbing these factors driving monsoon you are disrupting the monsoon season," he said.

On the impact of the river linking process on the monsoon season, Manshi Asher, a researcher-activist associated with Himachal Pradesh-based Himdhara Collective, said if the hydrological cycle is disrupted then it is a very complex cycles that are being disturbed.

"Also for biodiversity of fish and fauna and from socio-economic point of view there is a lot of impact of river-linking projects and with climatic change rivers and glaciers are undergoing a change so what is the point of putting so much concrete and making a mega structure to further worsen the situation," she added. (Hydrological cycle or water cycle is how water evaporates from the surface of the earth, rises into the atmosphere, cools and condenses into rain or snow in clouds, and falls again to the surface as precipitation.)

(With inputs from agencies)

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