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India Planning to Divert Rivers to Help Fight Punishing Drought

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Published: May 18 2016 03:45 PM EDT By Sean Breslin

Consecutive disappointing monsoon seasons in India have left 330 million people in a deep drought, and officials plan to fight the dry conditions by taking unprecedented measures.

Water would be transferred from a slew of sources – including rivers like the Ganges and Brahmaputra – into drought areas as part of a $168 billion project called the Interlinking of Rivers (ILR), according to Nature World News. Water will be diverted from 30 different places, some fed by glaciers in the Himalayas, to drought-ridden areas, reported.

“Interlinking rivers is our prime agenda and we have got the people’s support and I am determined to do it on the fast track,” water resources minister Uma Bharti told reporters.

The drought has stretched into one of the worst in recent history for India, and Nature World News said nearly half of the country’s states are currently in an extreme water crisis. Shortages were so dire in recent months that the government ordered trains to deliver water to Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh states, the report added.

The lack of water was a major problem for years prior to the drought because the country is also facing a big loss of groundwater, which cannot be replenished, added. Critics of the new diversion measures are also upset that ILR is not feasible for a host of reasons.

“It is even more impossible in the context of climate change as you don’t know what will happen to the rivers’ flows,” Himanshu Thakkar of the South Asia Network for Dams, Rivers and People told “The project is based on the idea of diverting water from where it is surplus to dry areas but there has been no scientific study yet on which places have more water and which ones less.”

If the decision is made to divert these rivers, it will also have a negative impact on Bangladesh, into which 54 of India’s 56 river flow, the country’s Minister for Water Resources, Muhammad Nazrul Islam, told BD News 24. They’re asking Indian leaders to share specific plans for how they’ll execute this project to ensure it’s not violating international rules that forbid countries from taking water away from people living downstream, he also said.

“India is giving a lot of importance to its own people hit by drought … but it must not ignore our rights,” Nazrul Islam told BD News 24. “I don’t expect India to do that either.”

Cover Photo-Indian boys on their way to play cricket walk through a dried patch of Chandola Lake in Ahmadabad, India, Saturday, May 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)

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