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Analysis of Sansad TV Discussion: Ken-Betwa inter-linking of rivers project

Context

Union Cabinet has recently approved the funding and implementation of the Ken-Betwa inter-linking of rivers project.

Introduction

  • The Ken-Betwa inter-linking of rivers project involves the transfer of water from the Ken to the Betwa River will be of immense benefit to the water-starved Bundelkhand region, spread across the states of MP and UP.
  • It will provide water for irrigation of 10.62 lakh ha annually, drinking water supply to a population of about 62 lakhs and also generate 103 MW of hydropower and 27 MW solar power.
  • The interlinking of rivers (ILR) programme is a major endeavour to create additional storage facilities and transfer water from water-surplus regions to more drought-prone areas.

What is the Ken-Betwa Link Project?

  • It is the first project under the National Perspective Plan for the 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 powerhouses.
  • Phase-II will involve three components — Lower 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 generate 103 MW of hydropower and 27 MW of solar power.

When was the Ken-Betwa project agreement signed?

On March 22, 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).

How was the project conceptualised?

  • 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 the development of the 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 the 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. Recently, the memorandum of agreement was signed to implement the project.

Which regions will be benefitted from Ken-Betwa Project?
Analysis of Sansad TV Discussion: Ken-Betwa inter-linking of rivers project_40.1

  • 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.

How old is the concept of river linking in India?

  • In the past, several river linking projects have been taken up. For instance, the Periyar Project, under which the transfer of water from the Periyar basin to the 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 the 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 the 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.

What clearances are required for a river-linking project?

Various types of clearances are required, such as techno-economic clearance (given by the Central Water Commission); forest clearance and environmental clearance (Ministry of Environment & Forests); resettlement and rehabilitation plan of tribal population (Ministry of Tribal Affairs) and wildlife clearance (Central Empowered Committee).

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