Ken-Betwa River Interlinking Project

Prelims level : Rivers Mains level : GS-I Important Geophysical phenomena such as Earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc., geographical features and their location - changes in critical geographical features (including water bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.
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Why in News?

  • Recently the Steering Committee of the Ken-Betwa Link Project (KBLP) held its third meeting in New Delhi which reiterated that KBLP was a “flagship” project of the national government and that it “is critical for the water security and socio-economic development of Bundelkhand region”. 

About the Project:

  • 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 Ken-Betwa Link Project (KBLP) is the River interlinking project that aims to transfer surplus water from the Ken river in MP to Betwa in UP to irrigate the drought-prone Bundelkhand region spread across the districts of two states mainly Jhansi, Banda, Lalitpur and Mahoba districts of UP and Tikamgarh, Panna and Chhatarpur districts of MP.
  • Ken-Betwa is one of the 30 rivers inter linking projects conceived across the country.
  • Ken and Betwa rivers originate in MP and are the tributaries of Yamuna.
  • Ken meets with Yamuna in Banda district of UP and with Betwa in Hamirpur district of UP.
  • Rajghat, Paricha and Matatila dams are over Betwa river.
  • Ken River passes through Panna tiger reserve.

Constitutional Provisions Involved

  • Article 262(1) of the constitution deals with the adjudication of interstate water disputes.
  • Article 262(2) holds that neither Supreme Court nor any other court shall exercise jurisdiction in respect of interstate water disputes.
  • Water being a state subject requires a mutual water sharing arrangement between two riparian states.

Need for Interlinking of Rivers

  • India receives 80% of the water through its annual rains and surface water flow happens over a 4-month period June through September.
  • This spatial and time variance in availability of natural water versus year-round demand for irrigation, drinking and industrial water creates demand supply gap, which can be balanced by interlinking of rivers.
  • Interlinking of rivers involves joining rivers by the network of canals and reservoirs that solves twin problems of drought and flood by maintaining a water balance between the water deficit and surplus areas.
  • Pattiseema Lift Irrigation Scheme, has already interlinked the Godavari river and the Krishna river in Andhra’s West Godavari district.

Advantages of Interlinking Rivers:

  • River linking will be a solution to recurring droughts in Bundelkhand region.
  • It will curb the rate of farmers suicide and will ensure them stable livelihood by providing sustainable means of irrigation (6 lakh hec of land) and reducing excessive dependence on groundwater.
  • It will not only accelerate the water conservation by construction of multipurpose dam but will also produce 75MW of electricity and will supply drinking water to 13 lakh people.
  • Few are of the view that the introduction of dam inside the water scarce regions of panna tiger reserve, will rejuvenate the forests of Panna Tiger reserve that in turn will pave the way for Rich Biodiversity in the region.
  • It will provide employment during the execution of the project.
  • The afforestation programme could be implemented on canal banks resulting in environmental improvement. The communication system will improve because of canal roads and CD works raising marketing opportunities. The formation of the reservoirs will help tourism development, fish and aquaculture, bird sanctuaries etc.

What are its Concerns?

  • Construction of Daudhan dam will result into submergence of 10% of critical tiger habitat of MP’s Panna Tiger Reserve that will adversely affect the tiger conservation efforts.
  • Height of the dam (77 meters) will affect the nesting sites of vulture.
  • Construction of one of the barrages inside the Ken Gharial Sanctuary will adversely affect the sustainability of the sanctuary.
  • Submergence by Daudhan and Makodia reservoirs will result into displacement of 20,000 people of the bundelkhand region and will give rise to rehabilitation issues.

Challenges Ahead:

  • Political: Politicization of Ken Betwa project is making project more complex and resulting into its further delay. According to the draft project report, MP was to get 2,650 million cubic metres (MCM) of water and UP 1,700 MCM. While none of the states has objection to their share, Uttar Pradesh wants more water (935 MCM) in pre-monsoon months for rabi crops and less for the monsoon months.MP, however, is not willing to release the quantity in months with the least rain.
  • Environmental: Because of certain environmental and wildlife conservation concerns like passing of project though critical tiger habitat of panna tiger reserve, project is stuck in for the approval from NGT, and other higher authorities.
  • Economic: There is a huge economic cost attached with the projects implementation and maintenance, which has been rising due to delays in project implementation.
  • Social: Reconstruction and rehabilitation caused due to displacement resulting from submergence of two dams will involve social cost as well.
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