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What ails the Ken-Betwa River link project?

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: Issues related to the development

 

Source: TH

 Direction: The article highlights the issues related to the Ken-Betwa Link Project.

 

Context: The Steering Committee of the Ken-Betwa Link Project (KBLP), chaired by the Secretary of the Department of Water Resources, Ministry of Jal Shakti, held its third meeting in New Delhi.

 

What is the KBLP?

 

  • It is a “flagship” project that is critical for the water security and socio-economic development of the Bundelkhand region (of MP and UP).
  • The project costs Rs 44,605 crore in 2021 to water the Bundelkhand region.
  • The link will be in the form of a canal (flow through Chhatarpur, Tikamgarh and Jhansi districts) that will be fed by the new Daudhan Dam on the Ken, to be built within Panna Tiger Reserve.
  • The dam will generate 103 MW of hydroelectric power and is expected to irrigate 6.3 lakh hectares of land every year.

 

Concerns:

  • Hydrological and ecological concerns: The ‘surplus and deficit’ model has little basis in science (as these could be seasonal phenomena too) and it may endanger the water security of the Panna district (Ken – a non-perennial river).
    • The project has not yet received a complete forest clearance.
    • The NGT is currently hearing a challenge to the project’s environmental approval.
  • The legal problems:
    • Approval by the National Board for Wildlife violates Section 35(6) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 – improvement and better management of wildlife.
    • According to the SC, the creation of a high reservoir dam on the Ken River in the Panna National Park and Tiger Reserve for the KBLP is ultra vires to the WPA 1972.
    • The destructive impact of the proposed dam on the flow of water into and outside of the Ken Gharial Sanctuary (downstream of the Panna national park) is evident.
  • Impact on Panna’s tigers and other wildlife:
    • The deep gorges of Panna will be drowned if the new dam is built.
    • By 2009, there were no tigers in the Panna Tiger Reserve, necessitating an incredible effort that lasted almost a decade to reintroduce them.
    • The key wildlife species that will be affected include endangered vultures, mahseer fish, and the critically endangered Gangetic gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) in the Ken Gharial Sanctuary.

 

Way ahead:

  • The government is developing a larger ‘Panna Tiger Landscape’, which should be created in any case for Panna’s tigers.
  • An “independent” hydrological investigation of the Ken.
  • Restoring Bunderlkhand’s erstwhile Chandel-period lakes and ponds.
  • The developmental project should not destroy the ecology of fragile ecosystems and important tiger habitats in the country.
  • The approach should be eco-centric and not anthropocentric.

 

Conclusion: Due diligence and expert scrutiny during the project-approval stage are cornerstones of sound environmental governance.

 

Insta Links:

Ken-Betwa link project

 

Mains Links:

Q. Not many years ago, river linking was a concept but it is becoming a reality in the country. Discuss the advantages of river linking and its possible impact on the environment. (UPSC 2017)