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Ken-Betwa Interlinking Project: Rs 1,400 Crore, 2 Rivers and Massive Criticism

Explained: Everything you need to know about the Ken-Betwa interlinking project.

Published
Climate Change
4 min read
Ken-Betwa Interlinking Project: Rs 1,400 Crore, 2 Rivers and Massive Criticism
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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, while presenting the Union Budget 2022-23 in February this year had allocated Rs 1,400 crore for the Ken-Betwa interlinking project.

The project will divert the water from Ken river to Betwa river, both of which are tributaries of Yamuna, and would cover the Bundelkhand region.

Recently, in July the Steering Committee of Ken-Betwa Link Project (SC-KBLP) held their second meeting where the timeline, land acquisition, rehabilitation of displaced villages and other project related issues were discussed. And in a subsequent meeting it was decided that a central steering committee will set up a body to implement landscape and environment management plans.

Ken-Betwa Interlinking Project: Rs 1,400 Crore, 2 Rivers and Massive Criticism

  1. 1. Drought-Prone Bundelkhand and the Need for Interlinking

    The Bundelkhand region consists of thirteen districts; 7 in Uttar Pradesh-- Chitrakut, Banda, Jhansi, Jalaun, Hamirpur, Mahoba and Lalitpur and 6 in Madhya Pradesh-- Chhatarpur, Tikamgarh, Damoh, Sagar, Datia and Panna.

    It is one of India's most impoverished regions with 14.4 million people dependent on agriculture. The region is experiencing severe droughts, more and more frequently.

    The frequency of droughts has gone up from one in every ten years over the last century, to seven between in only five years between 2005 and 2015.

    Rainfall has been below the usual average and become more infrequent and erratic over the years.

    This project, the government believes, will solve the problems of millions in the drought-prone region.

    Expand
  2. 2. What Will the Project Entail?

    Betwa's basin is in a water deficit state while Ken basin has surplus water. The interlinking is expected to divert this 'surplus' water from Ken to Betwa.

    The government expects this to "provide irrigation and drinking water supply in the drought prone and backward Bundelkhand region and transfer surplus water of Ken basin to water deficit Betwa basin, besides power generation."

    How will this diversion of water happen?

    Through building a dam and reservoir on Ken river to store this water and then building a canal connecting to Betwa river and channelling this surplus water from Ken to Betwa.

    "A 77m high Daudhan Dam with gross storage capacity of 2953 million cubic meters (MCM) and reservoir submergence area of 9000 hectares(ha) along with a 221 Km long main canal is proposed," the government had said in a release.

    The project will irrigate an area of 6,35,661 ha annually, provide drinking water supply to population of 13.42 lakh and also generate 78 MW of power, the government claims.

    And now, Rs 1,400 crore have also been allocated to implement this project.

    But this doesn't mean all is good.

    Expand
  3. 3. Money Allocated Before Environmental, Statutory Clearances

    Along with the KBLP, the union budget also allocated money for several other river interlinking projects across the country.

    Several of these projects had still not received statutory clearances, environmental clearances and many were were sub judice being legally challenged in courts.

    Activists called this an election sop since the budgement announcements happened right before the state assembly elections in five major states including Uttar Pradesh.

    Calling the clearance given by the National Board for Wildlife for KBLP illegal, Manoj Misra of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan had told Down To Earth, “It did not have the authority to give the clearance. That is what has been challenged before the Supreme Court. The SC Central Empowered Committee has already acceded to this viewpoint that the clearance by the NBWL is illegal. How can any state, leave the Centre, think of implementing something like this?”.

    Expand
  4. 4. The Project Will Submerge Forest Land and Parts of Tiger Habitat

    The project has created potential threats to faunal as well as floral diversity, claimed studies. The proposed project may also have impact on the existing biodiversity and habitats as well as the people living and dependent on the natural resources needs.

    A recent study put more facts on the table. It reveals that a sizeable part, over 65%, of forest land that falls in the core area of the Panna Tiger Reserve in Panna, Madhya Pradesh will submerge in the process of interlinking the two rivers.

    Speaking of the magnitude of loss, the study said:

    "No amount of mitigation measures can create this kind of unique ecosystem which has evolved over million of years to reach the present level of biodiversity."
    Two million trees, and 86.5 Sq Km of land within the Tiger Reserve, and nearly 10% of the critical tiger habitat (CTH) in the reserve will also submerge.

    The study found that tree density, diversity and richness were maximum in the submerged area which was largely teak-dominated and has a thick understorey.

    Panna Tiger Reserve has been recently declared as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO and is one of the most successful tiger re-introduction programme from 0 tigers in 2009 to 54 in 2019.

    "Apart from successful tiger translocation, PTR is rich in prey species such as sambar Rusa unicolor, chital Axis axis, blue bull Boselaphus tragocamelus, chinkara Gazella bennettii, chausingha Tetracerus quadricornis, etc. All the species are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and are also listed in CITES," said the study.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

Drought-Prone Bundelkhand and the Need for Interlinking

The Bundelkhand region consists of thirteen districts; 7 in Uttar Pradesh-- Chitrakut, Banda, Jhansi, Jalaun, Hamirpur, Mahoba and Lalitpur and 6 in Madhya Pradesh-- Chhatarpur, Tikamgarh, Damoh, Sagar, Datia and Panna.

It is one of India's most impoverished regions with 14.4 million people dependent on agriculture. The region is experiencing severe droughts, more and more frequently.

The frequency of droughts has gone up from one in every ten years over the last century, to seven between in only five years between 2005 and 2015.

Rainfall has been below the usual average and become more infrequent and erratic over the years.

This project, the government believes, will solve the problems of millions in the drought-prone region.

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What Will the Project Entail?

Betwa's basin is in a water deficit state while Ken basin has surplus water. The interlinking is expected to divert this 'surplus' water from Ken to Betwa.

The government expects this to "provide irrigation and drinking water supply in the drought prone and backward Bundelkhand region and transfer surplus water of Ken basin to water deficit Betwa basin, besides power generation."

How will this diversion of water happen?

Through building a dam and reservoir on Ken river to store this water and then building a canal connecting to Betwa river and channelling this surplus water from Ken to Betwa.

"A 77m high Daudhan Dam with gross storage capacity of 2953 million cubic meters (MCM) and reservoir submergence area of 9000 hectares(ha) along with a 221 Km long main canal is proposed," the government had said in a release.

The project will irrigate an area of 6,35,661 ha annually, provide drinking water supply to population of 13.42 lakh and also generate 78 MW of power, the government claims.

And now, Rs 1,400 crore have also been allocated to implement this project.

But this doesn't mean all is good.

Money Allocated Before Environmental, Statutory Clearances

Along with the KBLP, the union budget also allocated money for several other river interlinking projects across the country.

Several of these projects had still not received statutory clearances, environmental clearances and many were were sub judice being legally challenged in courts.

Activists called this an election sop since the budgement announcements happened right before the state assembly elections in five major states including Uttar Pradesh.

Calling the clearance given by the National Board for Wildlife for KBLP illegal, Manoj Misra of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan had told Down To Earth, “It did not have the authority to give the clearance. That is what has been challenged before the Supreme Court. The SC Central Empowered Committee has already acceded to this viewpoint that the clearance by the NBWL is illegal. How can any state, leave the Centre, think of implementing something like this?”.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Project Will Submerge Forest Land and Parts of Tiger Habitat

The project has created potential threats to faunal as well as floral diversity, claimed studies. The proposed project may also have impact on the existing biodiversity and habitats as well as the people living and dependent on the natural resources needs.

A recent study put more facts on the table. It reveals that a sizeable part, over 65%, of forest land that falls in the core area of the Panna Tiger Reserve in Panna, Madhya Pradesh will submerge in the process of interlinking the two rivers.

Speaking of the magnitude of loss, the study said:

"No amount of mitigation measures can create this kind of unique ecosystem which has evolved over million of years to reach the present level of biodiversity."
Two million trees, and 86.5 Sq Km of land within the Tiger Reserve, and nearly 10% of the critical tiger habitat (CTH) in the reserve will also submerge.

The study found that tree density, diversity and richness were maximum in the submerged area which was largely teak-dominated and has a thick understorey.

Panna Tiger Reserve has been recently declared as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO and is one of the most successful tiger re-introduction programme from 0 tigers in 2009 to 54 in 2019.

"Apart from successful tiger translocation, PTR is rich in prey species such as sambar Rusa unicolor, chital Axis axis, blue bull Boselaphus tragocamelus, chinkara Gazella bennettii, chausingha Tetracerus quadricornis, etc. All the species are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and are also listed in CITES," said the study.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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