Union Cabinet clears Ken-Betwa river interlinking project

Water-starved districts of U.P. and M.P. to benefit from ₹44,605-crore scheme, says Government.

Updated - December 08, 2021 10:54 pm IST

Published - December 08, 2021 10:51 pm IST - New Delhi

The Betwa river flows through Orchha in Madhya Pradesh. The Ken-Betwa link project is proposed to be ready in eight years. File

The Betwa river flows through Orchha in Madhya Pradesh. The Ken-Betwa link project is proposed to be ready in eight years. File

The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the funding and implementation of the Ken-Betwa river interlinking project at a cost of ₹44,605 crore at the 2020-21 price level. The Centre would fund ₹39,317 crore for the project, with ₹36,290 crore as a grant and ₹3,027 crore as a loan.

The project involves transferring of water from the Ken river to the Betwa river through the construction of Daudhan dam and a canal linking the two rivers, the Lower Orr Project, Kotha Barrage and the Bina Complex Multipurpose Project. The project is slated to irrigate 10.62 lakh hectares annually, provide drinking water supply to 62 lakh people and generate 103 MW of hydropower and 27 MW of solar power. The project is proposed to be ready in eight years.

Also read | The Ken-Betwa project reflects the ill-conceived rationale behind river-linking

“The project will be of immense benefit to the water-starved Bundelkhand region, spread across Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. This project will provide enormous benefits to the districts of Panna, Tikamgarh, Chhatarpur, Sagar, Damoh, Datia, Vidisha, Shivpuri and Raisen of Madhya Pradesh and Banda, Mahoba, Jhansi and Lalitpur of Uttar Pradesh,” a statement noted.

“The project is expected to boost socio-economic prosperity in the backward Bundelkhand region on account of increased agricultural activities and employment generation. It would also help in arresting distress migration from this region,” it said.

Many hurdles

Several obstacles have dogged the project. For one, the project will partly submerge the Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh and affect the habitat of vultures and jackals. After years of protests, it was finally cleared by the apex wildlife regulator, the National Board for Wildlife , in 2016.

Also read | Ken-Betwa project, a threat to wildlife?

Then Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh could not agree on how water would be shared, particularly in the non-monsoonal months. They reached an agreement in March. The original project was conceived in two distinct phases but now they are learnt to be combined.

In a “normal” year, Madhya Pradesh would use 2,350 MCM (million cubic metre) of water and Uttar Pradesh, 1,700 MCM. From November-May, the non-monsoon period, Madhya Pradesh would get 1,834 MCM and Uttar Pradesh 750 MCM. A sticking point was that Uttar Pradesh had demanded nearly 900 MCM and Madhya Pradesh was prepared to release only 700 MCM.

Also read | Neither Panna nor paani, says member of wildlife board

A new body — the Ken Betwa Link Project Authority — will execute the project and is in the process of obtaining forest clearance for constructing the Daudhan dam.

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