In January 2002, in the context of water conservation and water availability, Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee recommended for no-conflict, low-cost, time-tested and practical water conservation: “Catch every raindrop where it falls.”
Vajpayee’s idea was pushed aside when President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, in his 2002 pre-Independence Day speech, stated that interlinking of rivers was inescapable to solve India’s flood and drought problems simultaneously. The basis of this pronouncement has never been revealed.
Taking his cue from this, in September 2002, Advocate Ranjit Kumar, who was amicus curiae in a case, filed a short application before the Supreme Court praying that it direct the government to take up the interlinking of rivers (ILR) project. Chief Justice of India B.N. Kirpal accordingly issued notice to the States and the Centre. The matter came up for hearing on the day before Justice Kirpal was to retire. In the absence of response from any State except one, Justice Kirpal presumed that the States had no objection to the ILR and passed an order that the government take up and complete the ILR project in the shortest possible time.
The ILR project conceived in the 1980s was thus born in 2002, without socio-economic feasibility studies, proper application of mind by the learned judge, a study of alternatives, discussion in Parliament or scrutiny by the Planning Commission. The technical and systemic bases of the NWDA’s ILR proposal have not been established to date.