KEN–BETWA RIVER LINKING PROJECT

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Context:
The Forest Advisory Committee of the environment ministry has formally approved the inter-linking of the Betwa River (in Uttar Pradesh) with the Ken River (in Madhya Pradesh).

What is the significance of this approval?
Endorsement of this project is significant for the following reasons –
a) Firstly, Implementation of this project will create additional irrigation potential of 600,000 hectares, produce 60 MW of power and provide drinking water to 1.3 million people.
b) Second, it will give a push to the other inter – linking projects which are very important for solving water-related problems of India.

How many river-linking projects are proposed?
Ministry of water resources, under its national water plan has proposed 30 river linkages. The Ken-Betwa project will the first among these 30 proposed project.
In the past India has executed other inter-basin river linkages namely Sarda-Sahayak, Beas-Sutlej, Kurnool-Cuddapah, Periyar-Vaigai projects and the most recent being the linking of Krishna and Godavari rivers which was done with the commissioning of the Pattiseema scheme in Andhra Pradesh in 2015.

What are the benefits of river linking projects?

There are various benefits of these projects:
a) India is not an inherently water-short country, its total annual rainfall of around 120 cm which is well above the global average of around 100 cm. But the bulk of this water runs off to the sea leading to water-shortage. By executing these projects India can transfer surplus water from river basins to deficient ones for equitable distribution of water across the country. It will reduce water shortage in India by creating an additional 35 million hectares irrigation.
b) Then there are other benefits like additional power generation of 34,000 MW, flood control, navigation, fisheries and ensuring domestic water supply.

What are the challenges to river linking projects?

Inspite of the idea of a national network of interconnected rivers being over a century old, the progress on it is very slow due to following reasons:
a) Environmental challenges (e.g. Ken-Betwa river linking will lead to submergence of part of Panna tiger reserve) :
b) Financial challenges;
c) Feasibility challenges;
d) Population dislocation; and
e) Difficultly to build political consensus especially in inter-state river linking projects as water is a state subject.
Interlinking should take place after a detailed study so that it does not cause any problem to the environment and society.