Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh has asked the Centre to review the Ken-Betwa river-linking project in Madhya Pradesh in view of the ecological implications.
In a letter to Union Water Resources Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, Mr. Ramesh suggested that it "may be revised" to exclude the tiger reserve area falling within its purview.
The project encompasses a considerable forest area falling within the notified core/critical tiger habitat of the Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh. "The proposal, if implemented, would involve construction of a large dam spread over 1.5 km besides the supporting infrastructure and powerhouses. This would cause considerable disturbance to the core/critical habitat of the tiger reserve which is required to be kept "inviolate" for tiger and other wild animals as per the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972." Mr. Ramesh said.
Panna is a conflict-ridden landscape where tigers have gone locally extinct in the recent past. The Centre is actively supporting the State to restore the tiger population, the letter said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Ramesh has also written to the Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, seeking his intervention in the speedy notification relating to the buffer zones of Tadoba-Andhari, Melghat and Pench Tiger Reserves.
He also pointed out the "considerable" delay on the part of the Maharashtra government in releasing funds to tiger reserves. So far during the current financial year, it is learnt that only a small amount has been released to the field units.
Mr. Ramesh asked Mr. Chavan to create a reserve-specific Tiger Conservation Foundation under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, to receive Central assistance under Project Tiger. A similar letter has also been written to the Assam Chief Minister regarding the Kaziranga and Manas Tiger Reserves.