After failing to get the Ken-Betwa river-link project cleared by the MP state wildlife advisory board at its August 11 meeting, the Madhya Pradesh government has hurriedly called another meeting on September 22.
Though the agenda of the meeting has not been circulated so far, wildlife experts feel the state government has called the meeting with the single point agenda to push through the union government's ambitious river-linking project.
The state government, during the previous meeting, had sought clearance from the wildlife board to de-notify 90 sq km of prime tiger habitat that would be submerged owing to construction of a dam as part of the river-link project in the 576 sq km Panna Tiger Reserve.
During the previous meeting, wildlife experts had urged the chief minister, who is the ex-officio chairperson of the board, not to treat the body as a rubber stamp for granting clearances to projects in wildlife areas.
The CM, acknowledging the opposition of wildlife experts to the project, had asked the National Water Development Agency (NWDA)--the union government body to execute the project--to prepare a fresh presentation on the project and bring it in the next meeting to address member's apprehensions.
"Wildlife board meetings are usually held once or twice a year. It is clear that the state government has convened a meeting again, in quick succession to the previous meeting, only to ensure passage of the Ken-Betwa river-link project," said a member of the board. "The minutes of the previous meeting have not been circulated as yet and another meeting is being convened," he said.
Holes in NWDA report
In the August 11 meeting, wildlife experts had found holes in the environmental impact assessment report, submitted by the NWDA, and called for a fresh report
According to the proposal submitted in the previous meeting, the dam would also create 56.23 sq km and 49 sq km of isolated habitat in Kishangarh and Chandranagar ranges of the park, which would be detrimental to tiger conservation
The submergence area of the project lies within MP, while the benefits will be shared between MP and UP
The project was opposed by the Panna Tiger Reserve management and the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).