MP, UP sign controversial Ken Betwa river linking project, Panna tiger reserve to be affected

BHOPAL: The long pending controversial river linking project- Ken-Betwa linking project (KBL) was inked in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday. A Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was signed between the Union minister of Jal Shakti and the chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh to implement the first project of the National Perspective Plan for interlinking of rivers.

About Rs 3,3000 crore project, still waiting for final environmental clearances, will submerge large part of the Panna tiger reserve, known for its tiger restoration programme. Lakhs of trees are likely to be cut in the process of construction inside the national park. The centre would bear 90% of the project while the state would bear about 10%.

On Monday afternoon, the MOA was signed through a video conferencing. MP Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said people of nine Madhya Pradesh districts- Sagar, Chhatarpur, Vidisha, Shivpuri, Raisen, Damoh, Panna and Tikamgarh. Besides, the four districts of Uttar Pradesh- Mahoba, Jhansi, Lalitpur and Banda- will benefit from the project. The detailed project report for the first phase of the project was prepared by the National water development agency in 2010.

According to the project report, 2,800 MCM of water will be perted from Ken basin to water deficit Betwa basin through a 73.8 meter high dam proposed on Ken at Daudhan in MP’s Chattarpur district. This dam will be constructed inside the national park.

Madhya Pradesh will get 1,834 MCM water in rabi and 2350 MCM in kharif, a government spokesman later said. Uttar Pradesh has settled for 750 MCM of water during the rabi season and 950 MCM water in kharif .

Environmentalists said that the project is going to “affect adversely” Panna tiger reserve. Himanshu Thakkar of South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People said, “ The project has been promoted as a solution to the drought prone region of Bundelkhand. However, the detailed project report said that the Ken water will be sent to the Upper Betwa basin which is outside Bundelkhand.”

He said that Panna tiger reserve would witness a massive destruction after felling over 46 lakh trees, submergence of 9000 hectares forest land and disconnection of over 10000 hectares of land completely.