sulabh swatchh bharat

Thursday, 20-June-2019


The project might benefit humans but the wildlife board says it will not get the nod unless tiger populace is protected

 satyendra singh

Rig-Veda has special mention of water sources, rivers in general and popular rivers in specific. They are considered sacred and possess divine powers. Krishna, in Bhagavad Gita, claims that he is the stream of holy Ganges. These are the spiritual beliefs associated with rivers but they also have physical attributes since ages.
Rivers have been ensuring the inhabitability on this planet since time immortal. Therefore, they need to be protected and holistically used by the society as well as the states. The Ken-Betwa river inter-linking project can be seen as an effort in this direction. The project has the potential to affect over 70 lakh people. It is expected to be launched very soon.     
The NDA government’s ambitious Ken-Betwa river inter-linking project is likely to develop the worst drought prone regions of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. The project is also expected to be a benchmark for irrigating 6.36 lakh hectares of land (3.70 lakh hectare in Madhya Pradesh and 2.66 lakh hectare in Uttar Pradesh) annually. The project will also mitigate the drinking water woes in Bundelkhand region. According to the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, 55 million cubic metre drinking water will be made available to over 13.5 lakh people in Bundelkhand. Apart from this, 78 MW electricity will be generated. Flood control, water transport, fisheries are some other benefits to be mentioned.      
The project that is likely to foster so many benefits has seen difficult time too. It required a go ahead from Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change(MoEFCC) and Ministry of Tribal Affairs in the first place. According to reports, the Environmental Evaluation Unit has given its assent. Similarly, it has got the thumbs-up from the Ministry of Tribal Affairs. But the project is still waiting for a positive response from Forest Advisory Committee of MoEFCC. The ministry has asked for a few documents of the project. It is most likely to get an affirmative response from the ministry.   
The most surprising part is that the National Board for Wildlife (NBW) has given it a green signal. It is an important achievement on the part of central government. There was low probability for the project to get a nod from NBW because it was highly opposed by environmentalists and wild life activists.  According to the reports, 4,141 hectares of Panna Tiger Reserve will be submerged due to the implementation of the Ken-Betwa project. Panna Tiger Reserve has been developed as an ideal place for the conservation of endangered national animal.  Currently, it is home to more than 16 tigers while there was no tiger at all till in 2009. In this scenario, it was difficult for the Board and the government to give green signal to the project, for it was a threat to the endangered population of tigers. But it is equally important for human life.
Therefore a middle way was suggested. Madhya Pradesh government has agreed to give 8,000 hectare of forest land to compensate it. The board on the other hand made it clear that the Panna Tiger Reserve will be integrated with Rani Durgavati (MP) and Ranipur (UP) Wild Life sanctuaries in order to compensate the loss of natural habitation of tigers. Along with that, the Board has also asked the government to ban fresh mining leases in that region. The Board is relying on National Tiger Conservation Authority to look after the sanctuary.  
The main feature of the project is a series of barrages and dams connecting the Ken and Betwa rivers. A dam near Dhaudhan village in Madhya Pradesh will be built on Ken basin. Around 660 million cubic meter surplus water from Ken River will be brought to Betwa River through 221 km long cannel. It may cost around nine to ten thousand crores. However, the proportion of fund allocation by the state and Centre is yet not clear. NITI Ayog has recommended that Centre’s share should be 40 percent while the states will bear 60 percent of the share. But the Ministry of Water Resources has opposed it arguing that it should spent 90 or 100 percent of the whole project cost.
The tussle on the issue may lead to further delay in the project. The government is also liable to pay for compensation for land acquisition and rehabilitation of displaced families. As soon as the contention on funding pattern is resolved, the project will be implemented unless some other obstacle hinders its way.  It will be the maiden project of its kind for interlinking rivers flowing through more than one state.