But environmental experts are concerned that the initiative will do much more harm to India than it will do good.
First, they claim, it has to be taken into account that climate change has caused changes in rainfall patterns with unpredictable effects on water flow, and that setting in stone a huge new canal network at such an unstable period wouldn’t be a wise decision.
"What may appear as water deficient today may become water surplus in the future due to climate change," said Sachin Gunthe of Indian Institute of Technology in Madras, as cited by New Scientist. "So, how do you justify inter-linking?"
Geologists also note that pushing rivers around through the Inter Linking of Rivers (ILR) could damage agriculture, as farmlands have been built over centuries in naturally born floodplains and near river deltas.
What’s more, the ILR scheme will require constructing vast reservoirs to control and store water, according to director of Delhi-based NGO, the Centre for Science and Environment, Sunita Narain, and these reservoirs will displace hundreds of thousands of people.
Wildlife will also severely suffer, as even the scheme’s pilot project would only be possible at the cost of destroying an estimated 4,100 hectares of forest, likely including 58 square kilometers of the Panna Tiger Reserve.
Despite all the alerts by environmental activists, the government seems determined, and work on the pilot-link is likely to start any time soon.