In this article we will discuss about the merits and demerits of multi-purpose projects.

Merits of Multi-Purpose Projects:

Multi-purpose projects are very much conducive to economic development of the country.

The following are sdome of the important advantages of such projects:  

1. Irrigation Facility:


Extension of irrigation facility is one of the important objectives and advantage of multipurpose projects. These projects can stimulate the agricultural productivity for meeting the growing requirement of food and raw materials required for increasing non-farm activities.

2. Flood Control:

Another important objective of such projects is to control the occurrence of floods creating havocs on the economy.

3. Generating Electricity:


Multi-purpose projects help to generate hydro-electricity on a large scale basis, which is very much important for the development of industry.

4. Navigation:

Such projects can create navigation facility in the country by developing ferrying services for transportation, raise fleet capacity and thereby can reduce the traffic load on rail and road transport.

5. Forests and Fisheries:


These projects can help to raise forestry on the banks of the canals. Moreover, it can also encourage the development of fisheries in the reservoirs.

6. Drinking Water:

Such projects facilitate the development of safe drinking water projects for the adjoining areas.

7. Development of Industry and Employment Generation:

Such projects can create a favourable climate for the development of industry by offering the facilities like cheaper power, better water transport, availability of raw materials at cheaper rates for agro-based industries etc.

Moreover, by developing agriculture, industry and infrastructural services, these projects can generate adequate volume of employment opportunities in the farm and non-farm sector. All these would help to raise the standard of living of the people of those adjoining regions reaping benefits from such projects.

8. Recreation:

Multi-purpose projects can also facilitate to develop recreation facilities in the form of picnic resorts, holiday resorts etc. which are having much commercial viability nowadays.

Demerits of Multi-Purpose Projects:

Multi-purpose projects commissioned in India has already derived impressive results in respect of creation of irrigation potential and also in the generation of hydroelectric power. the irrigation potential so far developed by larger and medium projects has increased from 10 million hectares in 1950-51 to 34 million hectares in 1997-98.


Total installed capacity of hydro-electric project in India has also increased fron 0.6 gW in 1950-51 ro 21.7 gW in 1996-97. In spite of its achievements, the multi-purpose projects in India are subjected to the following controversies.

1. Exaggerated Benefits on Irrigation:

It has been argued that irrigation benefits derived out of multi-purpose projects are exaggerated because the actual area irrigated by these projects is much less due to delay in the construction of field channels and water routes. Moreover delay in completion of these projects has resulted in high escalation of its cost.

2. Higher Cost of Hydropower:


Although hydro power is having the advantage of low operating cost, renewable source and eco-friendly but at the same time it is also subjected to long gestation period, delay in commissioning the project resulting escalation of project cost and higher initial cost. All these have resulted in a comparatively higher unit cost of generation in respect of hydro power.

3. Least Flood Control Benefit:

The multi-purpose projects have also failed to derive maximum benefit in respect of flood control as the embankments, drainage channels and flood protection schemes have failed miserably to achieve results.

4. Adverse Environmental Impact:


Finally, the multi-purpose projects have resulted serious adverse environmental impact in respect of degradation of soil content arising out of waterlogging and soil salinity in its command areas.

Considering these negative sides, Dr. B.B. Vora has rightly observed, “The future of major and medium irrigation is dim and the country has neither the resources nor the time for creating additional gross potential of some 26 million hectares of irrigation through this route. Hence minor irrigation, particularly through the use of ground water, must be the mainstay for all future places.” Management of big dams is also being done at exorbitant financial and ecological costs.

But the management of minor projects has resulted in maximum use of water resources and better control.

Thus, in recent times, basic questions have been raised from various organisations about the standing conventional emphasis and grounds on the multi-purpose river valley projects. It is time to re-evaluate the irrigation policy of the country in a judicious manner and to formulate the policy with new directives and emphasis.