MP, UP sign Ken-Betwa pact: Here’s why it alarmed environmentalists
Environmental activists said the project would spell doom for the Panna tiger reserve, known for its critically endangered white-rumped vultures besides a thriving big cat population
Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh on Monday signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) to begin work on the country’s first major project for interlinking two rain-fed rivers, Ken and Betwa. Here is all you need to know about the MoA and why has it alarmed environmentalists:
• Environmental activists said the project would spell doom for the Panna tiger reserve, known for its critically endangered white-rumped vultures besides a thriving big cat population.
• According to the project report, 2,800 million cubic metres (MCM) of water will be diverted from the Ken basin to the water-deficient Betwa basin through a 73.8-meter-high dam proposed on Ken at Daudhan in Madhya Pradesh’s Chhattarpur district.
• The report also said 6,017 hectares of forest land of Panna Tiger Reserve and the Ken Ghariyal Sanctuary would be submerged in the dam reservoir.
• Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said people of nine districts will benefit from the project and about 1 million hectares of land will get irrigated.
• He added 6.2 million people, mostly in the water deficit Bundelkhand region, will get drinking water.
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• Himanshu Thakkar, convenor of South Asia Network on Dams, River and People said it was “very unfortunate” that the Central and state governments signed the MoA on World Water Day even though the project would prove to be a curse for water conservation.
• He cited a report of the forest advisory committee and added an estimated 4.6 million trees will be cut down for the project. This will lead to poor rainfall in an already parched Bundelkhand.
• Thakkar said the project will also destroy Panna Tiger Reserve, home to over 52 tigers and several species of endangered vultures, including the white-rumped vulture.
• Of the nine vulture species found in India, six can be seen in Panna, which has run a successful vulture population revival programme.
• Several committees, including the Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee have raised doubts about the project.
• A petition opposing the approval of the project is pending before the Supreme Court.
• Former environment minister Jairam Ramesh said the project will all but destroy the Panna Tiger Reserve, a success story in translocation and revival.
• The MoA was signed 18 years after the project was first conceived.
• Officials said the delay was because of lack of agreement between the two states on sharing of water.
• The Uttar Pradesh government, which was initially demanding 930 MCM water during the Rabi season, settled for 750 MCM while Madhya Pradesh will receive 1,834 MCM water.