An Indian plan to build the largest artificial water network in the world is ill-conceived and could spark a water war with its neighbours. The warning comes as the government prepares to seek funds from the World Bank for the multi-billion dollar project.

The plan will redraw the hydrological map of India, taking flood waters from 14 Himalayan tributaries of the Ganges and the Brahmaputra rivers in northern India and Nepal and transferring them south via a series of canals and pumping stations, across the Vindhya mountains to replenish 17 southern rivers, including the Godavari, Krishna and Cauvery. Up to 1500 cubic metres of water a second will be pumped south.

In all, the scheme will mean building around 300 reservoirs and digging more than 1000 kilometres of canals.