Ken-Betwa river linking project

Source: By Harikishan Sharma: The Indian Express

The Union Cabinet on 8 December 2021 approved the funding and implementation of Ken-Betwa inter-linking of rivers project with a total cost of Rs 44,605 crore. The project will be completed in eight years.

It is the first project under the National Perspective Plan for interlinking of rivers. It envisages transferring water from the Ken river to the Betwa river, both tributaries of the Yamuna. The Ken-Betwa Link Canal will be 221 km long, including a 2-km long tunnel.

The project has two phases, with mainly four components. Phase-I will involve one of the components — Daudhan Dam complex and its subsidiary units such as Low Level Tunnel, High Level Tunnel, Ken-Betwa Link Canal and power houses. Phase-II will involve three componentsLower Orr Dam, Bina Complex Project and Kotha Barrage. According to the Jal Shakti Ministry, the project is expected to provide annual irrigation of 10.62 lakh hectares, supply drinking water to about 62 lakh people, and generates 103 MW of hydropower and 27 MW of solar power.

As per an official statement issued after the Cabinet approval on 8 December 2021, the total cost of Ken-Betwa link project has been assessed at Rs.44,605 crore at 2020-21 price levels. The Union Cabinet has approved central support of Rs.39,317 crore for the project, covering grant of Rs.36,290 crore and loan of Rs.3,027 crore, the statement said. The statement further said that the project is proposed to be implemented in 8 years with “state of the art technology.

According to the statement, a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) called Ken-Betwa Link Project Authority (KBLPA) will be set up to implement the project. In fact, the Centre has set in motion the process of creation of National Interlinking of Rivers Authority (NIRA), an independent autonomous body for planning, investigation, financing and implementation of the interlinking of river (ILR) projects in the country. The NIRA will have powers to set up SPV for individual link projects.

On 22 March 2021, a memorandum of agreement was signed among the Ministry of Jal Shakti and the governments of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh to implement the Ken-Betwa Link Project (KBLP).

The idea of linking Ken with Betwa got a major push in August 2005, when a tripartite memorandum of understanding for preparation of a detailed project report (DPR) was signed among the Centre and the two states. In 2008, the Centre declared KBLP a National Project. Later, it was included as part of the Prime Minister’s package for development of drought-prone Bundelkhand region.

In April 2009, it was decided that the DPR will be prepared in two phases. In 2018, a comprehensive DPR including phase-I, II and additional area proposed by Madhya Pradesh was also prepared. It was sent to Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and the Central Water Commission in October 2018. The memorandum of agreement was signed to implement the project.

The project lies in Bundelkhand, a drought-prone region, which spreads across 13 districts of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. According to the Jal Shakti Ministry, the project will be of immense benefit to the water-starved region, especially 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. It will pave the way for more interlinking of river projects to ensure that scarcity of water does not become an inhibitor for development in the country, the Ministry said in a statement.

According to the National Water Development Agency under the Jal Shakti Ministry, the Daudhan dam, to be built on the Ken river, will be 77 metres high and its gross capacity will be 2,853 million cubic metres.

According to the NWDA, the reservoir of Daudhan dam will involve “a submergence of 9000 ha area, out of which 5803 ha comes under Panna Tiger Reserve. The later includes 4141 ha of forest area which is about 7.6% of the total Panna Tiger Reserve area.

In order to mitigate adverse impacts on Panna Tiger Reserve, as decided by NTCA, Landscape Management Plan to decide mitigation strategy with respect to Ken-Betwa Link entrusted to Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun and is in its final stage, the NDWA has said.

In addition to above three wildlife sanctuaries, viz Nauradehi, Rani Durgawati of MP and Ranipur WLF of UP are planned to be integrated with PTR for proper conservation of Wild Life under Tiger Reserve, it has said.

In the past, several river linking projects have been taken up. For instance, the Periyar Project, under which transfer of water from Periyar basin to Vaigai basin was envisaged, was commissioned in 1895. Other projects such as Parambikulam Aliyar, Kurnool Cudappah Canal, Telugu Ganga Project, and Ravi-Beas-Sutlej too were undertaken.

In the 1970s, the idea of transferring surplus water from a river to a water-deficit area was mooted by the then Union Irrigation Minister Dr K L Rao. Himself an engineer, he suggested construction of a National Water Grid for transferring water from water-rich areas to water-deficit areas.

Later, Captain Dinshaw J Dastoor proposed a Garland Canal to redistribute the water from one area to another. However, the government did not pursue these two ideas further.

It was not until August 1980 that the Ministry of Irrigation prepared a National Perspective Plan for water resources development envisaging inter-basin water transfer. The NPP comprised two components: Himalayan Rivers Development; and Peninsular Rivers Development. Based on the NPP, the National Water Development Agency (NWDA) identified 30 river links– 16 under peninsular component and 14 under Himalayan Component.

Later, the river-linking idea was revived during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime. The Ken-Betwa Link Project is one of the 16 projects under the peninsular component.