The government's decision to revive a project to construct a barrage on the Ganges near Rajbari, abandoned a year earlier because of its “faulty” design, has raised questions about the justification for such a move. The USD 5.15 billion scheme, resuscitated without any change whatsoever in its design, is the costliest of the 80 projects included in the new Delta Plan 2100 approved on Tuesday. While we appreciate the vision driving the mega plan, we fail to comprehend what has influenced the revival decision especially when the said project and its feasibility study had been rejected by the prime minister a year ago on the grounds that there were flaws in them. We wonder how such a defective project is going to achieve its stated goals.
A barrage is an important part of the life of local people who are its primary beneficiaries. They are also the ones who will suffer most if there is a defect in the plan or if it fails to rightly predict or address the probable risk factors. There are a number of examples of a barrage project going haywire for local communities, the closest to home being the Farakka barrage. For all its geopolitical implications, the Farakka barrage has reportedly caused regular land/bank collapses and displacement of a huge number of people within India. The Ganges Barrage project, if implemented, is supposed to facilitate irrigation by diverting water flow, help restore ecological balance and increase livelihood opportunities in the project area, among other things. Its success rests on the precision of its design and the judiciousness of its response to likely impacts which are usually measured through a comprehensive feasibility study, a process that has been ignored in this case.
We think the public have a right to know why the decision was taken then. The government should clear their doubts, since a costly project such as this should be free of all risk factors.