(News) 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 about it.
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 generate power.
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.