The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) in last week of December 2016 gave its clearance to the Ken-Betwa Inter-Linking of Rivers (ILR) project. The project will benefit two states, namely Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, and help them in meeting the needs of drinking water, irrigation and electricity in six districts.
As per reports, an official said now the project need clearances from environment and forest but the clearance from the wildlife board has ended the last hurdle for the project. Other clearances will be given soon.
Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti said, “The construction work will start after deciding its funding pattern”.
Why was the clearance needed?
The approval from the wildlife board was a must because the project requires diversion of forest land of Panna Tiger Reserve.
Conditions implied in the Wildlife clearance
Certain conditions with which the clearance was given to the project include
• It calls for an integration of the nearby sanctuaries including Ranipur and Rani Durgavati with the Panna Tiger Reserve. This integration will compensate the loss of tiger habitat.
• It calls for complete ban on fresh mining lease in the area.
Besides, the board wants that landscape plan for the area will be taken care by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). NTCA will seek help from the state forest department and Wildlife Institute of India (WII).
About Ken-Betwa River linking project
• It envisages diversion of surplus waters of Ken basin to water deficit Betwa basin.
• As per the proposal, the quantity of water that will be diverted from Ken basin after considering in basin demands and downstream commitments earmarked for providing irrigation in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh is 1020 Mm3.
• This link cannel would provide water for irrigation in areas of upper Betwa basin of Madhya Pradesh by the way of substitution enroute Uttar Pradesh.
• It will also irrigate the previous proposed Ken Multipurpose Project (KMPP). The project was proposed by the state government of Madhya Pradesh.
• The project will provide drinking water facility along with irrigation in about 47000 hectares area of Tikamgarh and Chhatarpur districts of Madhya Pradesh as well as Jhansi and Hamirpur districts of Uttar Pradesh.
• Downstream commitments of water of the project are 1375 Mm3 for Madhya Pradesh and 850 Mm3 for Uttar Pradesh.
• The project received clearance of Union Cabinet in July 2014. It is a of Rs 9000 crore project.
The Ken-Betwa Inter-Linking of Rivers project was stuck due to objects from wildlife conservationists and environmentalists. They were opposing the project by terming that the project will have an impact on wildlife sanctuaries as well as the tiger reserve.
The plan of inter-linking rivers in India has been in existence since British colonial rule. It started with a proposal of 19th-century engineer Arthur Cotton. He proposed the plan to inter-link the major rivers of India, which would hasten the import and export of goods as well as address the water shortages and droughts in India, mainly in Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.
After independence in the 1970s, a National Water Grid was proposed by Dr KL Rao, the former irrigation minister and dam designer. He wanted to end the problem of floods in North India and the shortage of water in South India. He proposed that the surplus water from Ganga and Brahmaputra basins should be diverted to water deficit areas of central and south India.
Since then, the project went through different phases of approval and abandonment with transformation. Its transformation included the formation of National Water Development Agency (NWDA), the splitting of the water development project into two parts namely the Peninsular and the Himalayan component of 1980 to an intra-basin development of 1999. During this phase, the project of interlinking rivers saw the formation of several committees and reports.
The project got a push during NDA rule led by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee during 1999 to 2004 but the last stand came with a February 2012 verdict of the Supreme Court of India, while hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) lodged in the year 2002. The court directed the Union Government to implement Inter-Linking River in a time-bound manner. It also appointed a high-powered committee for its planning and implementation.