Explained: Ken-Betwa river interlinking project and environmental concerns
The work on the project was originally slated to begin in 2015 but only got a fresh push last year with the government making a revised deal with the two states.
Union Jal Shakti minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat signed a tripartite agreement with the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh on Monday on the occasion of World Water Day to start the work on India’s first major river interlinking project that will connect the Ken and the Betwa Rivers. The Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) was signed almost 18 years after the idea of the project was conceived owing to disagreement between the two states over sharing of water. Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said that the project will help in irrigating at least 1 million hectares of land and people of nine districts of the state will benefit from it.
What is the Ken-Betwa interlinking project?
The project is part of the National Perspective Plan aimed at interlinking rivers of the country. According to the project report, 2,800 million cubic metres (MCM) of water from the Ken River basin will be diverted to the water-deficient Betwa basin through a 73.8-meter-high dam proposed on Ken at Daudhan in Madhya Pradesh’s Chhattarpur district. Both of the rivers are rain-fed and are tributaries of the Yamuna. The project, which is estimated to take eight years to complete, has an estimated cost of ₹35,111.24 crore.
What is the history of the Ken-Betwa interlinking project?
The project was conceptualised in the 1980s but the water-sharing agreement could not be reached between the two states. The work on the project was originally slated to begin in 2015 but only got a fresh push last year with the government making a revised deal with the two states.
What are the environmental concerns?
Several committees, including the Supreme Court-appointed panel, have raised doubts about the project. Environmental activists say that the project will be very harmful to the Panna Tiger reserve, which is located in Madhya Pradesh and is home to more than 52 tigers and endangered vulture species like the white-rumped vulture. Himanshu Thakkar, convenor of South Asia Network on Dams, River and People said that the decision to interlink the rivers was “very unfortunate” and cited a report of the forest advisory committee which said that an estimated 4.6 million trees will be cut down for the project which will adversely affect the rain in the already dry Bundelkhand region.