The Madhya Pradesh government claims to have launched the country's first ever river-lake linking project in the water-scarce Bundelkhand region.

The Harpura irrigation and river-lake link project, launched in the Tikamgarh district, will be implemented under the Centre's Rs.7266 crore Bundelkhand package. It will link the perennial Jamni river to the nearby lakes and water bodies built during the Chandel era. Under the project, an additional 1,980 hectares of land are expected to come under irrigation.

Currently, agriculture in Tikamgarh district, as in most of Bundelkhand, depends primarily on the monsoon besides irrigation from the Chandel-era water bodies.

However, in the last 25 years, most of the lakes have remained only 20 per cent to 50 per cent full due to scanty rainfall. With the Harpura project, the government hopes the lakes would remain full and help in round-the-year irrigation. Under the project, now at the land acquisition stage, it is proposed to construct a 44.28 km-long main canal and a 13 km-long branch-canal for filling up the lakes, besides digging 100 wells on either side of the main canal.

In 2010, the Survey and Research Division of the Tikamgarh district administration formulated a Rs. 41.33 crore action plan for branching out a canal from the Harpura weir on the Jamni, to fill up lakes and irrigate 1980 hectare additional irrigation area. The plan was approved last year.

The water bodies to be filled up include two lakes each at the villages of Hanuman Sagar, Jagat Nagar and Poorvi Gaur, as well as the lakes at the villages of Dargai Kalan, Rargai Khurd, Mohangarh, Archra and Vrishbhanpura.

Incidentally, the country's first ever river linking project — the Ken-Betwa river link — was expected to be launched in the Bundelkhand region. However, it was shelved last year after the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests refused environmental clearance, citing the probable submergence of major portions of the Panna Tiger Reserve.