Ken-Betwa Link Project: Draft Cabinet note kicks up controversy over water and cost sharing between MP and UP
After the mandatory environment and forest clearances have come through for the Ken-Betwa Link Project, the exercise for preparing the complex and detailed project report (DPR) for KBLP has got entangled in a web of confusion as serious differences have erupted on water sharing and a few other crucial issues between Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
By delinking phase one from phase two of the KBLP, the very rationale of the KBLP becomes questionable and is not likely to withstand judicial scrutiny.
It is learnt that the Prime Minister’s Office is seized of the matter and the concerned officials from Madhya Pradesh are scheduled to be in New Delhi on Tuesday to address water sharing and other major issues linked with the preparation of the detailed DPR for KBLP.
Madhya Pradesh Government has asked the Centre to carry out necessary modifications in the DPR of the Phase-1 of KBLP; finalise DPR of Phase-2; and provide “a DPR of the KBLP in totality” to enable the Madhya Pradesh Government to offer concurrence on the KBLP.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Secretary Basant Pratap Singh last month responded to a draft cabinet note on Ken Betwa Link Project sent to the State Government for comments by writing a letter to Union Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Secretary Dr. Amarjit Singh, pointing out that it was agreed to irrigate 3,57,267 ha. cultivable command area (CCA) in Madhya Pradesh from Daudhan Project, whereas a draft cabinet note mentions CCA of MP as only 2,87,842 ha.
The Centre has been told in no uncertain terms that the draft cabinet note, goes beyond the mandate given by tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed on August 25, 2005 by the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh (Mulayam Singh Yadav), Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister (Babulal Gaur) and Union Minister for Water Resources (P.R. Dasmunsi) in the presence of Prime Minister of India (Manmohan Singh).
As per the 2005 MOU, the agreed sharing of water between U.P. & M.P. for various uses is as follows:
Carrying forward the argument on a logical plain what has been highlighted further by the State Chief Secretary is that the “requisite mandate would come after the DPR for the project is finalised, which would be possible only after combining both the phases, and upon reaching a water sharing agreement.” The water sharing agreement, it has been emphasised, would include implementation mechanism and cost sharing.
The letter sent to Government of India by the State Government draws attention to the Betwa basin’s present surplus of 34 TMC water and at the same time also states that “deficit would have to be created by taking up projects in MP in Betwa basin for making the KBLP work. By delinking phase one from phase two of the KBLP, the very rationale of the KBLP becomes questionable and is not likely to withstand judicial scrutiny”, the State chief secretary goes on to observe.
The Madhya Pradesh Chief Secretary has also drawn Government of India’s attention to the Minutes of Meeting of the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh held in January 1977. In this meeting, it was agreed that Uttar Pradesh will not increase its irrigation from Ken Canal beyond 2.10 Lakh acres during kharif and 1.60 Lakh acres during rabi. Therefore, it has been underscored by the chief Secretary that the total CCA of UP including the enroute CCA of 13,763 ha cannot exceed 97,763 ha. whereas the draft cabinet note mentions 2,22,373 ha. CCA in UP. Taking off from this argument, Madhya Pradesh Government has urged the Centre to direct National Water Development Authority (NWDA) to incorporate suitable changes in the DPR.
It has also been highlighted by the Chief Secretary in his letter to the Union Government that the draft cabinet note in question suggests that the DPR of the project has been prepared but it is limited to Daudhan Dam and its associated canal systems.
In the meeting chaired by Union Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation on Nov 18, 2016, it was decided that both the phases will be taken up simultaneously for administrative approval. It has also been pointed out that Lower Orr and Bina projects have already received recommendations for environment and forest clearances. These projects have been cleared by the state design organization and have received the approval of the State Government. The DPRs of Bina Complex, Lower On and Kotha Barrage Projects, finalised by Government of MP, are with NWDA for combining and preparing the complete DPR of the KBLP.
Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had issued an order on May 25, 2017 to pinpoint “certain binding conditionalities with substantial financial implications, including displacement of large population and resultant need for rehabilitation that have been imposed.” While pointing this out, the Chief Secretary has noted that the Madhya Pradesh Government is not aware whether the feasibility of fulfilling these conditionalities has been examined and requisite provision has been made to meet the additional cost.
Regarding implementation mechanism, the Centre has been told by the State Government in clear terms that it was agreed between the Union Minister for Water Resources and the Chief Minister of MP that the project would be implemented by Government of MP, as the entire catchment, submergence, displacement, rehabilitation and construction are to take place within the State of MP. This was reiterated during the meeting held on 18 November, 2016.
With regard to hydel power from the KBLP, the Chief Secretary has stated categorically that the Madhya Pradesh Government “never agreed to share or give any authority over power generation/control to any entity other than that of GoMP.
While the differences between Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh Governments vis-a-vis sharing of water as well as cost sharing and implementation mechanism for KBLP need to be resolved, the fate of this project at present remains in suspended animation as the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) of the Supreme Court is seized of the matter regarding the adverse impact on the Panna Tiger Reserve especially since submergence would fragment and affect the tiger habitat in the Core area of the Reserve. This issue also has been acknowledged unanimously by the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC). The minutes of the FAC meeting held on 16 May, 2017 state that tiger, vultures and gharial are the key flagship species that are likely to be impacted by this project. The agenda for this meeting was “diversion of 6017 hectare of forest land from Chattarpur, Panna and Tikamgarh districts in Madhya Pradesh in favour of NWDA” for development of KBLP.
Recently, the CEC had asked the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to submit all relevant papers. Inquiry by Newsroom24x7 has revealed that after the documents had been delivered for scrutiny, the CEC has told the concerned authorities that now the Committee members would be touring the area to undertake a site inspection around mid-July.
The main objective of the Ken-Betwa link project, Phase-II is to make available water to water deficit areas of upper Betwa basin through substitution from the surplus waters of Ken basin.
A Feasibility Report prepared in 1995, found that the proposal for KBLP is techno- economically viable. The proposal comprised of a dam at Daudhan across the Ken river upstream of the existing Gangau Weir and a link canal for transferring the surplus waters from Ken river to Betwa river.