Wildlife activist Ajay Dubey will challenge the clearance given to Ken-Betwa river link project Phase-I by standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL).
Dubey told HT that he would approach principal bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT) soon.
“It is not just a matter of Panna Tiger Reserve, the whole area around it has rich biodiversity. Against this backdrop, Panna Biosphere Reserve, the third reserve of the state and 18th in the country, was notified by the union ministry of environment and forests on August 25, 2011,” Dubey told HT.
“What about the environmental impact and damage to the biodiversity in the whole biosphere reserve. How are authorities going to compensate the losses in the biosphere due to this interlinking project? I have decided to approach the principal bench of NGT soon on these issues and challenge the clearance given to Ken-Betwa river link project Phase-I. There is no detailed compensatory mechanism for the whole biosphere reserve,” Dubey said.
The Ken Betwa project was cleared in the meeting of the standing committee of NBWL chaired by union environment minister Anil Madhav Dave. The minutes of the meeting, which was held on August 23, were approved recently.
Panna Biosphere Reserve (BR), spread over in Panna and Chhatarpur districts, is one of the 18 BRs established in India and among the three in MP. The two other BRs in MP are Pachmarhi (1999) and Achanakmar-Amarkantak (2005).
It consists of three well delineated zones, core (792.53 sq km), buffer (989.20 sq km) and transition zones (1219.25 sq km).
“Panna Biosphere Reserve has rich biodiversity - 34 mammalian species, including tigers, lesser cats like Siyah Gosh (Felis caracal) and Jungle cat (Felis chaus), black buck (Antilope cervicapra) and so on. It has over 280 species of birds and a total of 1255 species of plants. Out of its area, 64.1% falls in Panna district and the remaining 35.84% in Chhatarpur. It has three protected areas - Panna National Park, Gangau and Ken-Gharial sanctuaries,” said Dubey.
Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar, who was a member of interlinking of rivers (ILR) committee, told HT that not many know that Ken-Betwa link had six dams on it.
“Before they execute this project, the government has to study of the impact of the interlinking project on each one of these six dams and the surrounding areas in detail,” she said.
Patkar said as she was a member of the ILR committee, she had studied the ramifications of the project in detail. “I think, the river interlinking project needs to be reviewed with more studies and fresh data for the long term effects,” she said.
In September last year, the Madhya Pradesh wildlife advisory board gave its go ahead to the Ken Betwa river link project amid dissent from some non-official members like MK Ranjitsinh, Belinda Wright and Khageshwar Naik.
The proposed interlinking of Ken-Betwa is said to irrigate drought prone Bundelkhand and provide drinking water to 1.34 million people in MP and Uttar Pradesh. The project would submerge 58.03 sq. km (10.07%) of critical tiger habitat (CTH) of the Panna Tiger Reserve and 50% loss to the existing unique habitat of highly endangered vulture species, according to wildlife officials.