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In a 1st, glacier-fed rivers to link with rain-fed ones

Dehradun: Uttarakhand government's department of drinking water has begun an ambitioues river linking project which aims to connect glacier-fed rivers of Pindari glacier in the Kumaon region with rain-fed ones in Bageshwar and Almora districts. "It would perhaps be the first such project in the country and pave the way for more such project in the country and pave the way for more such projects in Himalayan areas facing water issues," a top official involved with the plan said on Friday.
Under the project, Sunderdunga and Shambhu, major tributaries of the 105-km long Pindar river that originates from the Pindari glacier, will be linked with Gomti river in Baijnath valley of Bageshwar district and the upper catchment area of Kosi, Lodh and Gagas rivers in Almora district.
Nitish Jha, secretary, department of drinking water, told, "This long-term vision project is a very ambitious one as it aims to solve the water issues in Almora and Bageshwar districts due to the drying up of major rain-fed rivers there because of various environmental and climate-related factors."
Jha added that a team of experts, including engineers of the department and geologists, are already carrying out the initial ground survey work. "It started on June 8 and will continue till June 12. During this survey, they will study the area of Pindar river and try to identify the points from where water can be extracted. The initial ground and analysis work is likely to be completed within a year after which we will send a detailed project report to the Centre to seek required clearances. After two years, we are hopeful of implementing it."
Citing the reason behind the project, the senior government official said, "Among the rivers mentioned, Kosi is the lifeline of Almora and Nainital districts. We have at least 10-12 water pumping stations on for supply to households as well as agricultural fields. But due to decreased water level, those stations are at risk."
'Water level of Pindar won't see major change after river linking'
A senior government official added, "Once implemented, this project will solve the issues to a large extent."
The ground survey team comprises eminent geologist and director of Uttarakhand Space Application Centre MPS Bisht, chief engineer at department of drinking water SC Pant, three other engineers of the department- BS Rautela, Bhojraj Pant, Chandraprakash Karnatak- and social activist Ripudaman Singh.
On choosing Pindar river for the project, Bisht said, "The 105km-long river stretch is completely un-utilised for irrigation or drinking until it merges into the Alaknanda river, a major tributary of Ganga, at Karnaprayag town in Chamoli district." He added: "Water would be extracted from Pindar river (at a height of about 2,200m) and dropped in Gomti river in Bageshwar's Baijnath valley (at a height of about 1,800m) through tunnels and pipes. Similarly, the extracted water would be dropped into the upper catchment area of Kosi, Lodh and Gagas (at a height of about 1,800-1,700m) in Almora district."
Bisht further said there will be "negligible" disturbance in the water level of Pindar river as a result of the project. "About 42 cubic metre per second (cumecs) of water of Pindar river falls in Alaknanda. We will extract only about 1.5-2 cumecs which will hardly affect it," he said.
Experts, meanwhile, had a mixed opinion regarding the river-linking work. Noted environmentalist Anil Joshi said the government also needs to focus on treatment of the catchment areas of rain-fed rivers in the state. "If the government is able to connect the rivers, it is appreciable. But the question is, how many rain-fed rivers can be used to drop the glacier waters?" said Joshi.
Kalachand Sain, director of Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, said the project was the "need of the hour." "We have to try out different ways to solve the water issue, and this project seems to be a part of it," said Sain.

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