Ken-Betwa Link project

Ken-Betwa Link project

News: Recently, a major dam project of the Madhya Pradesh government, which is part of the Centre’s marquee Ken-Betwa river interlinking project, was found to be in violation of environment clearance laws by an expert committee of the Union Environment Ministry.

Background:
• In December 2021, the Union Cabinet approved Ken Betwa Linking Project at a total cost of Rs 44,605 crore. In this project, the national and the Madhya Pradesh governments will link the Ken river with the Betwa river so that the latter can water the Bundelkhand region in Uttar Pradesh.

What is the Ken-Betwa link project?
• The Ken-Betwa Link Project (KBLP) is the first-ever river interlinking project under the National Perspective Plan in India. It aims to transfer surplus water from the Ken river in Madhya Pradesh to Betwa river in Uttar Pradesh.
• Both Ken and Betwa are tributaries of the Yamuna river.
• The project is estimated to cost more than Rs 37,600 crore. The Centre will create a special purpose vehicle, the KenBetwa Link Project Authority, for implementation of the project in eight years and will bear 90% of the total cost.

How will the project be implemented?

The project will be implemented in two phases
• The first phase involves the completion of the Daudhan dam complex and its appurtenances such as lowlevel tunnel, high-level tunnel, Ken-Betwa link canal, and powerhouses.
• The second phase involves the construction of the lower Orr dam, Bina complex project, and Kotha barrage.

Significance of the project:
• The project will benefit thirteen districts across the water-starved Bundelkhand region. It will provide annual irrigation of 10.6 lakh hectares of land, and a drinking water supply to a population of about 62 lakh.
• Few are of the view that the introduction of dams inside the water scarce regions of panna tiger reserve (MP), will rejuvenate the forests of the reserve that in turn will pave the way for Rich Biodiversity in the region.
• It will curb the rate of farmers suicide and will ensure them stable livelihood by providing sustainable means of irrigation and reducing excessive dependence on groundwater.

What are the concerns associated with the project?
• Submergence of Habitat: The project will lead to the submergence of a major portion of the core area of the Panna Tiger Reserve. This could result in a loss of 58.03 square kilometers (10.07%) of critical tiger habitat (CTH) in the reserve.
• Loss of Flora and Fauna: The submergence will lead to a loss of two million trees. The area that will be submerged has a rich floral density and diversity.
• Impact on Wildlife: The project could trigger a major loss of the tiger and its major prey species such as chital and sambar.
• Social: Cut down of million trees for the project which will adversely affect the rain in the already dry Bundelkhand region which may led to displacement of peopleof the bundelkhand region and give rise to rehabilitation issues.

Are there any alternatives to this project?
• National Waterways Project (NWP): This project proposes to use only the excess flood water that goes into the sea unutilized. The NWP requires one-third of the land required for interlinking of rivers, involves zero pumping, and costs less. It can irrigate 60 million hectares of land, almost double than that by interlinking of rivers. Its power generation capacity (60,000 MW) is also around 76% more than that of the ILR.
• Expanding Capacities of Existing Projects: The Central Empowered Committee (CEC) report recommends that the government’s goals under the KBLP could be achieved through cheaper alternatives or by expanding the capacities of existing projects in the region.
• Alternative Water Management Strategies: Some experts suggest exploring other successful alternatives to manage water resources that have not been given priority and tried. 

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