Ken-Betwa River Interlinking Project Dead in Bundelkhand
The much-hyped but controversial Ken-Betwa river interlinking
project no longer generates interest in the drought-prone Bundelkhand. It has
been a good long decade since the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) sold it as
its pet project that would change the face of India. Now, no one even talks
The first river interlinking project in the country, for
which a memorandum of understanding was signed, proposed inter-linking of Ken
and Betwa rivers by diversion of water from the Ken basin to the Betwa basin
through a 231.45-km concrete-lined canal.
“The people of the region did not even understand why
inter-linking was needed in the first place because Ken does not have excess
water,” Krishna Gandhi of Abhiruchi, a non-governmental organisation related to
environmental issues, told The Hindu.
An agreement on water sharing for the region was signed
between the two States way back in 1972. Had the two States implemented it
efficiently, the problem of water shortage could have been addressed, he said.
The Ken-Betwa Link Project envisages a 73.80 m high Daudhan
dam across the Ken, about 2.5 km upstream of existing Gangau Weir on the border
of Chhattarpur-Panna districts in Madhya Pradesh. Two powerhouses, one at the
foot of the dam and other at the end of a 2-km tunnel, are also proposed to
The project was expected to irrigate 4.97 lakh hectares in
the Chhattarpur, Tikamgarh, Panna, Raisen and Vidisha districts of Madhya
Pradesh and Hamirpur and Jhansi districts of Uttar Pradesh.
While a memorandum of understanding was signed among the
Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Central governments in 2005, the project was
subsequently put on the backburner by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)
government following resistance from various quarters.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests had made it clear
that no environmental clearance would be granted to the project as it would
submerge a large area of the Panna Tiger Reserve.
Describing it as a “stupid, silly” solution to the problem,
Professor Gandhi said big dams never helped people. They only promoted
corruption and resulted in displacement of people, he said while suggesting
investing in small check dams and water harvesting projects in the entire
Bundelkhand region that would also help in ground water recharging.