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Ken-Betwa river linking project reaches PMO after MP govt throws spanner in works

The MP government wrote to the Centre demanding a review of the water sharing pact signed in 2005 between MP, UP and the Union water resources ministry and inclusion of new components in the Rs 16,000 crore Phase-I of the project.

india Updated: Jul 29, 2017 23:28 IST
Moushumi Das Gupta
Moushumi Das Gupta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Ken Betwa river linking,Ken river,Betwa river
Then Union minister Jairam Ramesh studying the proposed Ken-Betwa river link project during a trip to Panna tiger reserve in 2011. (HT File Photo)

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has stepped in to resolve the deadlock between the Union water resources ministry and BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh after the latter’s last minute demands to tweak Phase-I of the ambitious Ken-Betwa river linking project.

India’s first river linking project, connecting Ken river in MP with Betwa in Uttar Pradesh, was all but ready to get cabinet approval when the dispute started between Uma Bharti headed Union water resources ministry and her bête noir, MP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s government.

The MP government wrote to the Centre demanding a review of the water sharing pact signed in 2005 between MP, UP and the Union water resources ministry and inclusion of new components in the Rs 16,000 crore Phase-I of the project.

Bharti’s ministry is upset over this last minute demand from the MP government. “This could further delay the project, which recently got environment and forest approval after a delay of two years,” said a ministry official.

Though conceptualized way back in 80’s, the Ken-Betwa link has been mired by controversies from the word go, on account of opposition from states and environmentalists. The project was to start from December 2015.

The MP government has said that it will not give no objection certificate (NOC) to the Ken-Betwa link if the three local water management projects -- Kotha barrage, lower Oar and Beena complex -- are also included in Phase-I. A NOC from the two state governments is a mandatory requirement before a project gets cabinet nod. UP has already given its NOC, said a ministry official.

The three projects that Chouhan wants to be given approval along with Phase –I are yet to get the necessary regulatory clearances. “These three components are already part of Phase II of the river interlinking project. Suddenly why do they want it to be part of Phase I?” asked a senior ministry official.

The MP government also wants to revisit the water sharing agreement signed in 2005 between the then state CM Babulal Gaur, UP CM Mulayam Singh Yadav and union water resources minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi.

“The MP government wants UP’s water share to be reduced. In a meeting held last month with all the stakeholders, the PMO has directed both MP and UP government to sort out their water sharing issue,” an official added.

Political pundits are questioning the timing of Chouhan’s letter and say the reason for the last minute demand could be “political.” The state goes to poll next year. “The Ken-Betwa project has been iunder discussion for so long. Why was the MP government silent on its demand for so long,” said a BJP leader who did not want to be quoted.

First Published: Jul 29, 2017 23:27 IST