India is a land of extreme climates including its rainfall patterns which are highly skewed. Most of the rainfall in India happens within a span of about 100 days during the Monsoons. Adding to the climate diversity are the geographical variations which make India home to some of driest and wettest places in the world. Spread between Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, the region of Bundlekhand is one of the most drought prone regions in the country. The frequency and intensity of drought in Bundelkhand has now increased in last few decades. Agriculture in the region is heavily dependent on rain and it is a diverse, complex, under-invested, risky and vulnerable preposition. In addition, the area also witnesses short-term heavy rain and flooding in the fields which add to the uncertainties. These extremes gets further complicated by the scarcity of water in the semi-arid region of Bundelkhand with poor soil and low farm productivity.
Bundelkhand region is surrounded a number of rivers of the Ganga-Yamuna river basin. The Yamuna river is to the North of Bundelkhand, Ken river is in the east and Betwa and Pahuj rivers are in the west. Yamuna river flows from west to east and is fed by its tributaries from Bundelkhand region– the Betwa, Ken, Pahuj, Baghain, and Paisuni. Almost half of the water available in Bundelkhand’s upland and plain sub-regions is contributed by the Betwa river which originates in Madhya Pradesh’s Raisen district, south of Bhopal. The second major contribution of water in the Bundelkhand region comes the Ken river which is around 25%. Both the rivers flow south to north in the states of UP and Madhya Pradesh. Ken and Betwa are very important for irrigation in the region. A plan to interlink these rivers was envisaged in the late 80s to transfer water from water surplus river basins to water-deficit ones. The project was revised in the late 90s but never saw the light of the day.
Recently, on March 22, on the occasion of World Water Day, a memorandum of understanding was signed between Union Minister of Jal Shakti and the chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh to implement the Ken-Betwa Link Project (KBLP) making it the first project of the National Perspective Plan for interlinking of rivers. Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended event organized virtually and also saw participation of the CMs of both the concerned states.
The statement released during the occasion read, “The agreement heralds the beginning of inter-state cooperation to implement the vision of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to carry water from areas that have surplus water to drought-prone and water deficit areas, through the interlinking of rivers. This project involves the transfer of water from the Ken to the Betwa River through the construction of Daudhan Dam and a canal linking the two rivers, the Lower Orr Project, Kotha Barrage and Bina Complex Multipurpose Project.”
The Ken-Betwa Link Project will be finished in two phases. In its first phase, work on Daudhan dam complex and its low and high level tunnels, link canal to connect Ken and Betwa and power houses will be completed. Its next phase will witness the construction of Lower Orr dam, Bina complex project and Kotha barrage.
MoA for Ken Betwa Link Project pic.twitter.com/piMgxFmM9E
— Central Water Commission (@CWCOfficial_GoI) March 22, 2021
The KBLP project is expected to provide annual irrigation of 10.62 lakh hectares, 62 lakh people will get drinking water supply and it will also generate 103 MW of hydropower, according to the Union Jal Shakti Ministry. The cost of Ken-Betwa Link Project at 2017-18 prices, according to the Comprehensive Detailed Project Report or CDPR, is estimated at Rs 35,111.24 crore.
The project is expected to quench the thirst of water-starved region of Bundelkhand, including the the districts of Panna, Tikamgarh, Chhatarpur, Sagar, Damoh, Datia, Vidisha, Shivpuri and Raisen of Madhya Pradesh and Banda, Mahoba, Jhansi and Lalitpur of Uttar Pradesh. The success of Ken-Betwa link project is expected to show way for similar river interlinking projects and ensure that scarcity of water does not become an inhibitor for development in the country, the statement added.