River Interlinking

What ails the Ken-Betwa River Link Project?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Ken-Betwa Interlink

Mains level: River interlinking projects


The Steering Committee of the Ken-Betwa Link Project (KBLP) held its third meeting in New Delhi.

What is the Ken Betwa Link Project?

  • The Ken-Betwa Link Project is the first project under the National Perspective Plan for the interlinking of rivers.
  • Under this project, water from the Ken River will be transferred to the Betwa river.
  • Both these rivers are tributaries of the river Yamuna.

The Project has two phases:

  • Under Phase-I, one of the components — Daudhan dam complex and its appurtenances like Low Level Tunnel, High Level Tunnel, Ken-Betwa link canal and Power houses — will be completed.
  • While in the Phase-II, three components — Lower Orr dam, Bina complex project and Kotha barrage — will be constructed.

Utility of the Project

  • Irrigation: The project is slated to irrigate 10.62 lakh hectares annually, provide drinking water supply to 62 lakh people and generate 103 MW of hydropower and 27 MW of solar power.
  • Water supply: The project will be of immense benefit to the water-starved Bundelkhand region, spread across Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
  • Agricultural boost: The project is expected to boost socio-economic prosperity in the backward Bundelkhand region on account of increased agricultural activities and employment generation.
  • Addressing Rural Distress: It would also help in arresting distress migration from this region.

Ecological issues with the project

  • The government’s plan is based on a ‘surplus and deficit’ model that have little basis in science.
  • There may not even be enough water in the Ken, a non-perennial river, to meet the projected needs of the Betwa – forget the needs of the Bundelkhand region.
  • UP and MP could not agree on how water would be shared, particularly in the non-monsoonal months.
  • The project plans to create a high reservoir-dam on the Ken River in the Panna National Park and Tiger Reserve for the KBLP.
  • Downstream of the national park lies the Ken Gharial Sanctuary, created to protect the critically endangered Gangetic gharial (Gavialis gangeticus).

What are the legal problems?

  • Approval by the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife to the Ken-Betwa link Project has not been proved.
  • This is necessary for the improvement and better management of the wildlife therein as provided in Section 35(6) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

Issues with the projects

  • Migration: It will lead to massive displacement of people
  • Topography change: Since the Ganga basin topography is flat, building dams would not substantially add to river flows.
  • Inundation: The transfer of such enormous amounts of water will inundate forests and land for reservoirs.
  • Seismic hazards: The weight of billions of liters of water can have seismic implications in the Himalayan region.
  • Financial expense: River inter-linking is an expensive business from building the link canals to the monitoring and maintenance of infrastructure.
  • Political will: Implementation of the project not only needs a huge financial capital but also political support both is scarce commodities as of now.
  • Consensus building for land acquisition: Another important issue is building consensus among states and Land acquisition.
  • Ecological feasibility: Once the project is implemented it would lead to large-scale displacement of people and animals.

Criticisms of such projects

  • Bad Science: Such projects are built on bad science and an outdated understanding of water systems and water management.
  • Human determinism: Such projects go in contravention with natural process thereby generating more scope for threat than any opportunity.

Way forward

  • Due diligence: Expert scrutiny during the project-approval stage are cornerstones of sound environmental governance.
  • Independent hydrological study: of these rivers is necessary.


  • No developmental project should destroy the ecology of remnant fragile ecosystems and an important tiger habitat in the country.
  • Destructive impact of the proposed dam on the flow of water into and outside of this sanctuary should be immediately clear, as also its violation of the requirement under the Act for a sanctuary


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