- Disagreements over water-sharing and difficulty in acquiring non-forest land are impeding the India’s first river interlinking project, the Ken Betwa river interlink project.
- These major issues made it quite unlikely that the project will get under way this year.
About the Ken Betwa interlinking project
- Conceived as a two-part project, this is India’s first river interlinking project under the National Perspective Plan (NPP).
- Ken-Betwa is one of the 31 river inter linking projects conceived across the country.
- It is perceived as a model plan for similar interstate river transfer missions.
- Ken-Betwa (K-B) link project was declared as a National Project by Government of India in February, 2008, as per the then existing norms for consideration of any project as National Project. No other Inter-linking of Rivers (ILR) project has so far been declared as National project.
- Phase 1 involves building a 77 m-tall and a 2 km-wide dam, the Dhaudhan dam, and a 230 km canal to transfer extra water from the Ken River for irrigating 3.64 lakh hectares in the Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
- The phase I of the project, of linking Ken river in Madhya Pradesh and Betwa in Uttar Pradesh, envisaged to help irrigate an area of 6.35 lakh hectares annually.
- Of this, 3.69 lakh hectares will be covered in Madhya Pradesh’s Chattarpur, Tikamgarh and Panna districts. The remaining 2.65 lakh hectares of area falls in Uttar Pradesh’s Mahoba, Banda and Jhansi districts.
- The project is estimated to provide 49 million cubic metres of drinking water to a population of 13.42 lakh of people in Bundelkhand region in the two states. Besides, the project will also generate 78 mega watt of power.
- The plan is to implement the major part of the project in three years so that people of the parched Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh start getting its benefits before the country celebrates 75 years of its independence in 2022.
Impediments to the project
- The project, which involves deforesting a portion of the Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, was accorded clearance by the National Wildlife Board on the condition that the land lost would be made good by acquiring contiguous, revenue land. T
- This is to ensure that wildlife corridors in the region aren’t hit.
- The M.P. government has said that they are facing major difficulties over this.
- Another hurdle is a dispute over how Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh — the two beneficiaries — will share water in the Rabi season.
- While there’s a 2005 agreement between Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh on how water would be shared, Madhya Pradesh said last year that these assumptions were no longer valid and the only way to meet increased water requirements would be to include certain local water management projects — the Kotha barrage, Lower Orr and Bina complex that were envisaged in the second phase of the project — in the first phase.
- In theory, this could mean a completely fresh environmental appraisal.
- According to the draft project report, MP was to get 2,650 million cubic metres (MCM) of water and UP 1,700 MCM. “While none of the states has objection to their share according to a previous MoU, Uttar Pradesh wants more water (935 MCM) in pre-monsoon months for rabi crops and less for the monsoon months.
- MP, however, is not willing to release the quantity in months with the least rain.
Other river linking projects
- Ken-Betwa project will be the first among the 30 linkages proposed by the water resources ministry under its national water plan.
- The Godavari and Krishna rivers have already been linked with the Pattiseema scheme in Andhra Pradesh in 2015.
- The other inter-basin river linkages executed earlier included Sarda-Sahayak, Beas-Sutlej, Kurnool-Cuddapah, Periyar-Vaigai and Telugu Ganga.
About the National Perspective Plan (NPP)
- The National Perspective Plan (NPP) was prepared by the then Ministry of Irrigation in August 1980 for transferring water from water surplus basins to water-deficit basins.
- Under the NPP, the National Water Development Agency (NWDA) identified 30 links (16 under Peninsular Component & 14 under Himalayan Component) for preparation of Feasibility Reports (FRs).
- The Pre-Feasibility Reports (PFRs) of all 30 links have been prepared and circulated to the concerned State Governments.
- Four priority links under Peninsular Rivers Component are Ken-Betwa link project (KBLP) Phase –I & II, Damanganga-Pinjal link project, Par-Tapi-Narmada link project and Mahanadi Godavari link project.