The ambitious Ken-Betwa River Link project was one of the highlights of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s presentation of the Union Budget 2022 on Tuesday. The implementation of the project has been announced for a sum of Rs 44,605 crore and is gaining momentum ahead of Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and five other states.
The Ken-Betwa project is expected to benefit the drought-prone Bundelkhand region, which spans 13 districts of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. The Center announced the implementation of the project at a time when at least seven UP districts in the Bundelkhand region will vote in the third, fourth and fifth phases of the assembly polls.
During his budget speech, Sitharaman said, “The implementation of the Ken Betwa Linking project at an estimated cost of Rs 44,605 crore will be absorbed by irrigation benefits for 9 lakh hectares of farmland, the drinking water for 62 lakh people, 103 MW hydropower. Solar power generation of 27 MW,” adding, “Rs 1,400 crore allocated in 2022-23.”
Apart from this, other agricultural highlights of the Union budget 2022 include “kisan drones”, the direct payment of Rs 2.37 lakh crore from the MSP to 1.63 crore farmers, a fund with capital mixed for agricultural startups, as well as the promotion of natural products without chemicals. agriculture across India.
Sitharaman further said that in addition to the Ken-Betwa project, five other river link projects are being processed and their detailed reports (DPRs) are being prepared. This is the first project to be taken over as part of a national plan to connect rivers to allow water from surplus areas to meet shortages.
The Cabinet had approved the Ken-Betwa project in December last year and said it would pave the way for other river link projects in the country. As part of this project, excess water from the Ken basin will be transferred to the water-deficient basin of the Betwa. Both rivers are tributaries of the Yamuna. The ministry said the amount of water to be diverted from Ken Basin is 1,020 million cubic meters. To this end, the Daudhan dam (Lower Orr project, Kotha Barrage) and a canal connecting the two rivers (Bina Complex Multipurpose project) will be built. The canal will be 221 km long and will also have a 2 km long tunnel.
The state-of-the-art project is expected to be completed in eight years. Districts such as Panna, Tikamgarh, Chhatarpur, Sagar, Damoh, Datia, Vidisha, Shivpuri and Raisen in Madhya Pradesh and Banda, Mahoba, Jhansi and Lalitpur in Uttar Pradesh are targeted by the project.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan as well as UP CM Yogi Adityanath both hailed the project. Chouhan thanked the Center for approving the Ken-Betwa river link project. “It’s a budget for the common man; for the benefit of the poor, the lower middle class, the middle class. The allocation of Rs 1400 crore for the Ken Betwa Linking project will change Bundelkhand. This budget will double farmers’ incomes,” Chouhan added.
The project is expected to improve the socio-economic situation in the backward region of Bundelkhand. It aims to increase agricultural activities and create jobs. While the Center has promised that the project will provide environmental management and safeguards, many environmental and wildlife activists have opposed the project, saying it will lead to large-scale destruction of the wildlife habitat due to tree felling.
The Bundelkhand region is home to the critically endangered vulture and gharial and other species like leopard, sloth bear among others. According to reports, more than 9,000 ha will be submerged for the project. Of this number, 6,000 ha are part of the Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh. The project works will also involve the felling of more than 20 lakh of trees.
Chief Congress Whip to Rajya Sabha and former Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh also criticized the Center for announcing the implementation of the Ken-Betwa project. He said: “On the one hand, the budget talks about climate action and environmental protection. On the other hand, it pushes ecologically disastrous river connection projects. The rhetoric sounds good. But actions matter more. On this front, the Modi government is on a destructive path.”
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