File photo: Congress president Sonia Gandhi. (PTI)
File photo: Congress president Sonia Gandhi. (PTI)

Sonia Gandhi writes to Prakash Javadekar, asks him not to implement Ken-Betwa project

“I request you to ensure that this project in its present shape and form does not get implemented,” Gandhi wrote in her letter dates April 2.
UPDATED ON APR 10, 2021 10:19 AM IST

Congress president Sonia Gandhi has written to Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar, asking him not to implement the existing Ken-Betwa river linking project, the first of its kind programme in India. In her letter dated April 2, Gandhi argued that over the past decade, the Panna tiger reserve has been revived with great difficulties and now the park is considered an outstanding example of translocation and successful breeding. A reaction to Gandhi’s letter is awaited.

“It is now threatened by the river linking project and the state government’s open estimate is that around 40% of the area of the tiger reserve will be irretrievably damaged,” Gandhi wrote, pointing that around 18 lakh trees would be removed from the submergence area and “there would be a serious question over the basic issue of water availability itself for the proposed transfer.”

“I request you to ensure that this project in its present shape and form does not get implemented. I gather PILs are pending both in the NGT and the Supreme Court. Many conservationists in Madhya Pradesh and indeed from across the country have called for the abandonment of the project,” she wrote.

Last month, Union jal shakti minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat signed a tripartite agreement with the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh 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 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.

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.

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.

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