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Water the new oil: Why can't India supply water through pipelines to tackle drought?

By Shubham

India is facing a severe drought at the moment and a quarter of its population is undergoing a precarious experience. With little rain touching the parched fields and dams and reservoirs losing their water reserve fast, the authorities are clearly clueless about how to go about it.

[330 million people have been hit by droughts; number may go up further]

But the question is: Why do we have to wait on rain to meet all our requirements even today as it was during the primitive days? It can't be denied that rain water is our biggest scource of water still but why don't we have a viable Plan B to fall back on in years of drought? [Interlinking rivers in India to avoid Drought and Floods]


Why think about extensive river-interlinking projects that will invite more trouble

A lot is being written and heard about interlinking the rivers of the country so that water crisis can be reduced through distribution of water in all corners but that is too expensive a plan, to say the least. Interlinking of rivers do not just involve economic but also humanitarian and political costs and it can be concluded well before that the project will only invite more problems than solution since there will little consensus on a issue which is debatable.

Why don't our policy-makers give a chance to the idea of water transportation through pipelines?

Supplying water through pipelines is a tasted method

This is not something very new. Two millennia ago, the ancient Romans put into use aqueducts to transport water from higher elevations to lower areas with help of gravity. They were so much important for the Romans that they were called the lifeline of their massive empire.

Also in ancient China, pipelines were used to reach water to the imperial palaces and living quarters.

In Australia, the 530-kilometre long Godfields Water Supply Scheme was the largest water-supply project of the early 1900s when it was completed. Being a huge continent, Australia has depended on water pipelines extending over huge distances. The United States also has extensive water pipelines to serve its people.

Even Libya has succeeded in setting up a pipeline project to supply water from the Great Manmade River to distant cities, including capital Tripoli. The pipeline is over 2,800 kilometres in length.

If these countries can make it possible, why can't india-which is blessed with so many rivers and water sources---set up a similar project instead of undertaking a mind-boggling river-interlinking scheme?

India has shown a lot of interest on international gas pipelines; why not water pipelines then?

The current government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been making extra efforts to see the TAPI gas pipeline become a reality. Talks are also on to start work on the much-delayed India-Bangladesh-Myanmar has pipeline. India and Iran are also considering building an underwater gas pipeline bypassing Pakistan. Besides, India also has a number of oil pipelines within her borders. So, if energy-hungry India is ready to determine all options to transfer natural resources from abroad, why can't it think out a national water pipeline policy?

Pipeline supply of water is an answer to myriad challenges

With mounting population, over-used rivers, prolonged droughts and damaged ecosystems and possibilities of climate change, ensuring a reliable water supply mechanism is more challenging nowadays. And the answer may lie in the long-distance water-supply pipelines.

True, these efforts will also involve costs but at least they will not involve questions of human displacement that can derail the entire goodwill in no time.

B P Radhakrishna, the late president of the Geological Society of India, too, had once rued that supplying water through pipelines is not being considered but people are running after enormously expensive ideas like river-interlinking.

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