New Union Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari has decided to convene a meeting with the chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh over the Ken-Betwa river inter-linking project, sources said today. The ambitious project of the Centre, which has got almost all the major environmental clearances, hit a roadblock recently when the Madhya Pradesh government allegedly objected to it. The Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led BJP regime in Madhya Pradesh has allegedly warned that the first phase of the project would not be allowed to take off if it was not reworked to incorporate three other smaller projects. Another BJP government in Uttar Pradesh, led by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, has already given a no-objection certificate to the project.
Gadkari, who assumed the additional charge of the water resources ministry yesterday, was expected to hold the meeting with the two chief ministers “soon”, a source said without divulging further details. “The minister had decided to call the meeting soon after taking charge. It is expected to be held soon,” he added on the condition of anonymity. Speaking to reporters yesterday, Gadkari, in a different context, had underscored the need for resolving issues through discussions and said the pending projects could be expedited with the cooperation of all the stakeholders.
Referring to his remarks, the source said with Gadkari at the helm of the affairs of the ministry, which was led by Uma Bharti till Sunday’s cabinet reshuffle, things were likely to start moving forward. The Ken-Betwa river inter-linking project came across a new hurdle in July after the Madhya Pradesh government allegedly demanded the Centre to include the Lower Orr dam, Bina complex and Kotha barrage projects in its first phase.
Originally, these three projects were to be undertaken in the second phase of the river-linking project. “Now, if you are going to add these three barrages and dams to the first phase of the project, it is likely to delay the launch even further, because the Centre may need to procure the environment, forest, tribal and wildlife clearances again,” the source added. The Rs-18,000 crore project aims to link the Ken river in Madhya Pradesh and the Betwa river in Uttar Pradesh to transfer the surplus water of one river to another.
The first phase of the project, worth Rs 9,500 crore, is envisaged to help irrigate an area of 6.35 lakh hectares annually. Of this, 3.69 lakh hectares fall in Chattarpur, Tikamgarh and Panna districts of Madhya Pradesh and the remaining 2.65 lakh hectares in Mahoba, Banda and Jhansi districts of Uttar Pradesh.
The project is estimated to provide 49 million cubic metres of drinking water to around 13.42 lakh people living in the Bundelkhand region annually.