The Ken-Betwa river linking project aims to transfer surplus water from the Ken River to the Betwa basin through concrete canal to irrigate India’s worst drought-prone Bundelkhand region.
The issue of a river interlocking is on fire now a days because the expert panel’s approval comes after several months of discussions on the controversial project. Under this, the Ken in Madhya Pradesh will be linked with the Betwa in Uttar Pradesh. The first phase of the project will cost around Rs 10,000 crore and is expected to help irrigate about 600,000 hectares of land and provide drinking water to 1.34 million people in the two states, according to government estimates. It also envisages a dam on the Ken river near Daudhan village in Chhattarpur district of Madhya Pradesh which, apart from helping in diversion of water, will also generate 60 megawatts (MW) power.
However the roots of the project are old, During the Raj, British engineer Sir Arthur Cotton sought to link the Ganga and the Cauvery to facilitate navigation. The idea was shelved with the expansion in railroads. The idea of inter-basin transfers from surplus to deficit areas was in circulation at various times in the last century. In 1982, the National Water Development Agency (NWDA) was formed, and entrusted with the task of carrying out water balance and feasibility studies of the linking programme of 30 rivers.
The project will benefit Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh in terms of meeting irrigation, drinking water and electricity needs of people across 6 districts in the two states.
The 221-km concrete canal will pass through Jhansi, Banda and Mahoba districts of Uttar Pradesh and Chhatarpur, Panna and Tikamgarh districts of Madhya Pradesh.
Significance of Project Ken-Betwa river interlinking project will irrigate India’s worst drought-affected and drought-prone Bundelkhand region. It will irrigate 3.5 lakh hectares in Madhya Pradesh and 14,000 hectares of Uttar Pradesh, in Bundelkhand. It will benefit 5 districts of Madhya Pradesh (Chhatarpur, Raisen, Panna,Tikamgarh, and Vidisha) and 3 districts of Uttar Pradesh (Mahoba, Jhansi and Banda) by assured irrigation supply, domestic and industrial water supply and power.
On the other hand, about 20000 people in 38 villages will be affected due to the submergence by Daudhan reservoir and Makodia reservoir.
Ken-Betwa river interlinking project will be the first river project that will be located within a tiger reserve. It will submerge about 10% of the Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh which has been feted as a model tiger-conservation reserve.
Experts criticized the move as
“The Ken-Betwa river link will mean the end of Panna. The project, whose efficacy has been questioned by experts, will destroy swathes of old growth forest, a valuable carbon sink at a time when we are facing the brunt of climate change. It will drown our national animal, which we are committed to conserve, and vultures, of which populations have crashed between 97-99%; the loss of this scavenger is a health emergency,” said Prerna Singh Bindra, former member of the National Board for Wildlife.
Moreover, Ken-Betwa is one among 30 links—including one between the Ganga and the Brahmaputra—identified by the central government to tackle the country’s water problem. The links were first identified in 2002 during the then National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s rule, but nothing much happened to the plan in the following years.