The National Green Tribunal has sought response from the Centre and others on a plea challenging the environment clearance granted to the NDA government’s ambitious Ken-Betwa river linking project. A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar issued notices to the Ministry of the Environment and Forests, Ministry of Water Resources, the governments of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, the states where the project would be located, while seeking their replies in two weeks. “Issue notice to the respondents…all the action taken by any of the respondents meanwhile shall be subject to final order that may be passed by the tribunal upon hearing the matter finally. None of the parties would be permitted to claim any equity for the work done during the pendency of this application,” the bench, also comprising Justice Jawad Rahim, said.
The NGT was hearing a plea filed by environment expert Himanshu Thakkar seeking stay on the project on the ground that it lacks environment impact assessment and public consultation in affected districts. It also claimed inadequate appraisal by Environmental Appraisal Committee (for River Valley Projects) and contradictions between forest clearance conditions. 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.