A new hurdle has come in the way of the marquee Ken-Betwa river interlink project in its terms of financing.
The NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India) has recommended that Madhya Pradesh contribute 40 per cent of the project cost, with the Centre contributing 60 per cent. The Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR) has opposed this and requested that 90 per cent of the funds be routed through the Centre.
Senior officials of the ministry have discussed the matter with the NITI Aayog but a final decision has not been been taken yet. “We have made our case to the vice chairperson (Arvind Panagariya) and they have appreciated our view,” said Amarjit Singh, Secretary, MoWR.
A lack of clarity on the funding pattern could mean more delays to the Rs. 10,000-crore project that would be the first ever inter-State river interlinking project.
The project was given a go-ahead by the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) at a meeting chaired by Minister of State for Environment and Forests, Anil Madhav Dave, last August. An environment clearance panel has, according to officials in the water ministry, also cleared the project on 30th December.
A separate committee that determines forest clearance to such projects, is yet to take a call. “The toughest bit was the wildlife clearance...once the funding mechanism is clear, it would take seven years for the project to be ready,” said Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti.
This will be the first time that a river project will be located within a tiger reserve.
Submerging tiger habitat
The Rs. 10,000-crore Ken-Betwa project will irrigate the drought-prone Bundelkhand region but, in the process, also submerge about 10 per cent of the Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, feted as a model tiger conservation reserve.
The main feature of the project is a 230-km long canal and a series of barrages and dams connecting the Ken and Betwa rivers that will irrigate 3.5 lakh hectares in Madhya Pradesh and 14,000 hectares of Uttar Pradesh in Bundelkhand.