Ken-Betwa Link Project to provide water security in Bundelkhand, ensure conservation of species: Bhopal Singh, DG, NWDA

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April 20, 2021 8:15 AM

A comprehensive LMP is being prepared by Wildlife Institute of India under supervision of National Tiger Conservation Authority and Forest departments for not only taking mitigation measures but also enhancing the conservation and carrying capacity of Panna Tiger Reserve.

Ken Betwaa Link Project, KBLP, Panna Tiger Reserve, PTR, Bundelkhand, Bhopal Singh, National Water Development Agency, NWDA, duadhan dam,Ken Betwa Link Project is planned to be implemented as a model project in a  time bound manner duly addressing the Rehabilitation and Resettlement and environmental issues. (Images by Tarun Bhardwaj/ Financial Express Online)

This year’s world Water Day marked a momentous occasion in India’s hydrological history. On March 22, states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh signed a memorandum of understanding with Union Minister of Jal Shakti to implement India’s first river interlinking project connecting Ken and Betwa rivers in the Bundelkhand region. The Link Project (KBLP) making it the first project of the National Perspective Plan for interlinking of rivers. The event was attended, virtually, by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the CMs of both the concerned states. Ken-Betwa link project which will connect Bundelkhand’s two major river (tributaries of Yamuna) is expected to provide the arid region with annual irrigation of 10.62 lakh hectares. Bunelkhand’s 62 lakh population will get drinking water supply and 103 MW of hydropower, according to the Union Jal Shakti Ministry. While there are major benefits of India’s first river interlinking project it is also facing opposition from some quarters. Concerns have been raised in the environmental and ecological impact of the project and rehabilitation of the project. In an exclusive interaction with Financial Express Online, Bhopal Singh, Director General of the National Water Development Agency talked about how the Ken-Betwa river interlinking project will satiate the thirst of Bundelkhand and also addresses all concerns raised on the environmental impact of the project and issue of rehabilitation: Excerpt:

How is the Ken-Betwa link project going to help in fulfilling the demand of water in the Bundelkhand region?

The Ken-Betwa Link Project (KBLP) is the first Interlinking of River Project under National Perspective Plan (NPP) which is ready for implementation. The Bundelkhand region faces recurring drought conditions which has hampered the socio-economic development of the region. The region is also not very rich in ground water due to hard rock and marginal alluvium terrain. Therefore, there is a need for a project of a scale which will help in harnessing the flood water during monsoon period and stabilize the water availability in the region in lean periods particularly during drought years.

The Ken Betwa Link Project envisages to provide enormous benefits to the water starved districts viz. Panna, Tikamgarh, Chhatarpur, Sagar, Damoh & Datia of Madhya Pradesh and Banda, Mahoba, Jhansi & Lalitpur of Uttar Pradesh in Bundelkhand region as well as to the Vidisha, Shivpuri and Raisen districts of Madhya Pradesh. The project will provide over 10 lakh hectare annual irrigation and will also provide drinking water supply to a population of about 62 lakhs. Apart from other benefits, the project will help in rejuvenating tanks in the region by feeding them through the link canal, wherever possible, and would help in ground recharge. The project plans to use micro irrigation quite extensively for better water use efficiency. The project will lead to integrated development and management of water resources in the region and thus provide water security to the region.

Read More | Ken-Betwa Link Project: India’s first river interlinking project to quench the thirst of parched Bundelkhand

How long, you think, will it take to connect the two rivers and complete the project? What is the deadline you are looking at?

The project consists of four main parts viz., Daudhan dam complex including Ken-Betwa Link Canal, Kotha barrage, Lower Orr project and Bina complex project. The Daudhan dam complex has been estimated  to be completed in 8 years. The Lower Orr, Kotha barrage and Bina complex projects will be completed by 5, 4, 5 years period respectively as per the Comprehensive Report of the link project. The MoA for implementation of the project has already been signed on 22.03.2021 among MP, UP and Centre. The project will be implemented through a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) viz., Ken-Betwa Link Project Authority (KBLPA). Govt of India plans to implement this first ILR project as a model project. Most of the clearances have already been obtained for the project. The approval of Public Investment Board and Cabinet and stage-II forest clearance are expected soon which will pave the way for the commencement of the construction of the project.

Tell us about the various phases in the construction of the Ken-Betwa link project.

The various phases in implementing the project is as follows:

– Circulation of updated PIB Memo among various Ministries/Departments and approval by PIB and Cabinet
– Obtaining remaining clearances like stage-II forest clearance for Daudhan dam, environmental clearance for Lower Orr project etc. Finalisation of Landscape Management Plan for Panna Tiger Reserve (PTR)
– Setting of Steering Committee and Ken-Betwa Link Project Authority with representatives from MP, UP and Centre
– Finalization of funding sources/agency(ies)
– Engagement of) Project Management Consultancy(PMC) for management and monitoring of the implementation of the project
– Pre-construction surveys, scheduling/phasing of works involved, tendering, Land acquisition process, etc.,
– Finalisation of R&R plan and initiating action for Displacement and Relocation of project affected families as per the R&R plan
– Award of works for implementation of various components

What is the status of other river interlinking projects in India?

A National Perspective Plan (NPP) was formulated) in the year 1980 for transferring water from water surplus basins to water-deficit basins/regions in  which 30 links were identified (Figure-I). The National water Development Agency (NWDA) was established in July, 1982 to carry out water balance studies of various basins/diversion points and the feasibility of identified links. The pre-feasibility report of the all 30 links have been prepared and circulated. After survey and investigations, the Feasibility Reports of 24 links have been completed.

Based on the decisions taken by Task Force on ILR and Special Committee on Interlinking of Rivers (SC-ILR), some of the links have been identified as priority links. Detailed Project Reports of all the priority links i.e. Ken – Betwa link project, Damanganga – Pinjal link, Par – Tapi – Narmada link and Godvari – Krishna – Penner -Cauvery link have been completed. The various statutory clearances of the Ken – Betwa link project phase have been accorded. A tripartite agreement amongst states of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh and Centre has already been signed on 22.03.2021 for the implementation of  Ken – Betwa  link project. The techno-economic clearance to the Damanganga – Pinjal link project has also been accorded subject to statutory clearances. The DPR of Par – Tapi – Narmada link is under technical appraisal in Central Water Commission. The signing of MoA / MoU for implementation of  Damanganga – Pinjal  and Par – Tapi – Narmada link projects are under discussions with the concerned party States. The DPR of Cauvery – Vaigai – Gundar link project has been completed and circulated to party States. The DPR of Bedti – Varada link project along with alternates suggested by Govt. of Karnataka is under preparation. It is planned to complete the Feasibility Reports/Detailed Project Reports  of all potential links under NPP by the year 2024 by NWDA.

The further progress on the implementation of various links would depend upon the consensus amongst party states as the ILR programme is being pursued by the Central Govt. in a consultative manner and through building consensus amongst party states and the same is difficult to achieve. NWDA has also taken up studies of intra-state links as requested by various states. Out of the 48 link proposals received from nine (9) States, the PFRs of 37 link projects were completed and sent to concerned States. Remaining links are neither feasible or withdrawn by States. The DPRs of four intra-state link projects viz., Burhi Gandak – Noon – Baya – Ganga link & Kosi – Mechi link of Bihar, Ponnaiyar – Palar Link Project of Tamil Nadu and Wainganga – Nalganga link project of Maharashtra have been completed and sent to party States. The techno-economic, environmental and investment clearances for Kosi – Mechi link project have been accorded and this link is ready for implementation.  The DPRs of Damanganga – Vaitarna – Godavari (Kadva Dev) link and Damanganga (Ekdare) – Godavari link of Maharashtra are under progress.

 

Ken Betwaa Link Project, KBLP, Panna Tiger Reserve, PTR, Bundelkhand, Bhopal Singh, National Water Development Agency, NWDA, duadhan dam, Proposed River Interlinking Projects in India (Image Courtesy: NWDA)

For the future of interlinking of rivers in India, a lot depends on the successful execution of KBLP. Are you conscious about making sure it becomes a success and how do you look at the concept of river linking in solving the water crisis in general.

You are absolutely right. Like reaching an agreement amongst states and Centre for the implementation of KBLP is a very important step for the cause of ILR and cooperative federalism, its successful implementation would be even more critical for the concept of inter basin water transfer for addressing the hydrological imbalance in the country and augmenting the water availability in water short/deficit  areas. There are many challenges  in the execution of such big infrastructure project like understanding amongst party states, financing, R&R and land acquisition, likely environmental impacts, cost escalation, inordinate delays, dispute resolution. etc. This project also impacts some portion of Panna Tiger Reserve making it more challenging.

KBLP is planned to be implemented as a model project in a time bound manner duly addressing the R&R and environmental issues. The project is planned to be executed through a SPV (KBLPA) assisted by a project management consultancy for efficient management & monitoring using state of art technologies. The project shall be largely funded by the Central Govt. ensuring timely availability of funds as per requirements. The project has incorporated a very liberal R&R package and a very comprehensive environmental management plan has been made. Also a comprehensive Landscape Management Plan (LMP) is being prepared by Wildlife Institute of India  under supervision of National Tiger Conservation Authority and Forest departments for not only taking mitigation measures but also enhancing the conservation and carrying capacity of PTR. The project plans to use a micro irrigation system quite extensively for better water use efficiency. The existing tanks enroute of the link canal are also planned to be rejuvenated and augmented for inclusive water management in the region. Post implementation, an authority shall be created for water accounting, control and regulation of water for optimum utilisation and management of water resources in the basins. The project shall lead to integrated development and management of water resources in the region and would set an example for other similar projects also.

Would you like to address the issue of population displacement and environment/ecological concerns due to the construction of Daudhan dam?

Due to the Daudhan dam, about 9000 hectare of area will come under submergence covering  forest land of about 5800 hectare and 3200 hectare of non forest land spread over 10 villages affecting 1913 families. A Resettlement and Economic Rehabilitation Plan for these affected families as per the Act “The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency inland Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013” has been prepared and included in the estimated cost of the project. The issue of R&R Plan has three major components viz., land compensation, resettlement and economic rehabilitation of displaced persons and economic rehabilitation of PAFs who have lost only land but no house/house sites. Necessary Socio-Economic Impact Assessment studies have been carried out and the compensation as per the act has been worked out and included in the project cost. The cost of R&R plan has been worked out at Rs.673.51 Crore and included in the DPR.

For the submergence of forest land of 5800 hectare, a comprehensive Environmental Monitoring Plan (EMP) has been prepared covering the land environment including Catchment Area treatment, biological conservations, public health management plan, air & noise pollution  management plan under the pre and post project period. The provision of  Rs. 6053 crore has been included as the cost of land acquisition, NPV, CAT and CA in the DPR of the project.

In order to mitigate adverse impacts on Panna Tiger Reserve coming under part submergence, as decided by Standing Committee of National Wild Life Board and NTCA, Landscape Management Plan to decide mitigation strategy with respect to Ken-Betwa Link has been entrusted to Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun and same is under finalisation. In addition to above, three Wild Life Sanctuaries viz Nauradehi, Rani Durgawati of MP and Ranipur Wildlife Sanctuary of UP are planned to be integrated with PTR for proper conservation of Wild Life under Tiger Reserve. This will give ease to Tigers for free movement. Thus the project is aimed at not providing water security in the Bundelkhand region but also ensuring  the overall conservation of the region and specially for landscape dependent species such as tiger, vultures and crocodiles.

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