Ken-Betwa linkage project will devastate Panna Tiger Reserve: Sonia

New Delhi, April 9 (IANS) Congress President Sonia Gandhi has written to Union Environment, Forests and Climate Change Minister Prakash Javadekar, expressing her concern over the “devastating impact” of the Ken-Betwa river linkage project on Madhya Pradesh’s Panna Tiger Reserve (PTR) and urged him to not to allow it to go ahead.

The letter to Javadekar, dated April 2, was shared by her daughter and Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi on Twitter.

In her letter, Sonia Gandhi said: “I am writing to you to express my deep concern on the devastating impact of the Ken-Betwa river linkage project on the PTR. Many people have shared their concern with me and so I write on their behalf as well.”

She aid that over the past decade, Panna had been revived with great difficulty thanks to the dedicated efforts of the state government and the National Tiger Conservation Authority that is under Javadekar’s Ministry, and is considered an outstanding example of translocation and successful breeding.

“It is now threatened by the river linking project and the state government’s open estimate is that around 40 per cent of the area of the PTR will be irretrievably damaged. Around 18 lakh trees, a most valuable carbon sink – will be removed from the submergence area,” she noted.

Gandhi further said that apart from this serious questions have been raised on the basic issue of water availability itself for the proposed transfer.

“I request you as the Union Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change to ensure that this project in its present shape and form does not get implemented,” she said.

She also said that she has learnt that several PILs are pending both in the NGT and the Supreme Court and many conservationists in Madhya Pradesh and indeed from across the country have called for the abandonment of the project.

On March 22 this year, on the occasion of World Water Day, an MoU was signed between Union Jal Shakti Minister 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.

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.