What comes off as the biggest testament to PM Modi’s encouragement towards cooperative federalism, Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Madhya Pradesh (MP) governments will be cooperating on a massive scale to provide water to the drought-prone Bundelkhand region. It will also mark India’s first step towards linking the water-scarce region to a water-abundant one.
Green signal for Ken-Betwa project:
The project, which is timed to be finished in 8 years, will cost around Rs 44,605 crores. Out of this total cost, the Union government will be contributing central support of Rs 39,317 crores, covering a grant of Rs 36,290 crore and a loan of Rs 3,027 crore. To look after the implementation of the project, a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) called Ken-Betwa Link Project Authority (KBLPA) will also be set up.
Emphasising on the importance of the project, a statement from the Union cabinet read, “The project is expected to boost socio-economic prosperity in the backward Bundelkhand region on account of increased agricultural activities and employment generation. It would also help in arresting distress migration from this region,”
Project will help in irrigation facilities and uplifting generation of electricity:
The linking of these two rivers has been under pipeline for a very long time. Ken and Betwa rivers originate in Madhya Pradesh and are tributaries of the Yamuna river. Ken meets with Yamuna in Banda district of Uttar Pradesh and with Betwa in Hamirpur district of Uttar Pradesh. When completed, the water will be transferred from the Ken river in MP to Betwa in UP.
It will help in irrigating the drought-prone Bundelkhand areas (spread across the districts of two states) of mainly Jhansi, Banda, Lalitpur and Mahoba districts of UP, and Tikamgarh, Panna and Chhatarpur districts of MP.
“The project will provide an annual irrigation of 10.62 lakh ha, drinking water supply to a population of about 62 lakhs and also generate 103 MW of hydropower and 27 MW solar power,” the statement said.
The two-phased project will be implemented with full environment-friendly assistance:
The project is slotted to be completed in a total of two phases. In the first phase, Daudhan dam complex and its appurtenances like Low-Level Tunnel, High-Level Tunnel, Ken-Betwa link canal and powerhouses will be constructed. The second phase of project will witness the construction of three components — Lower Orr dam, Bina complex project and Kotha barrage.
The project has been under scrutiny for the possible hampering of Panna Tiger Reserve. A total of 6,017 hectares of forest areas are to be submerged under Daudhan dam. 66% of these submerged portions lie under Panna Tiger reserve. The government is taking assistance from the Wildlife Institute of India to finalise the environmental standard for the project.
Interlinking of rivers – a long-awaited dream of Indians:
This project will change the discourse around the alleged water crunch in India. Dr. K L Rao, a former Union Irrigation Minister, had mooted the idea of interlinking of rivers to transfer water from water surplus regions to ones facing water-crunch. After a brief discourse, the idea could not see the light of the day. Later, Shri Atal Bihar Vajpayee’s government promulgated the idea again. However, it has taken more than 20 years to finally start a project of such significance.
Though this project came extremely late in the history of independent India, Ken-Betwa project is a great indication of the fact that India never had a resource crunch of its own. All it required was an institutional mechanism backed by the political will to upscale India’s development.