General Studies IGEOGRAPHYIndian Geography

Ken Betwa River Linking Project


Funds Allocation of Ken Betwa River Linking Project

Ken Betwa River Linking Project

  • It is a project proposed to transfer excess water from the River Ken to the Betwa basin through the use of a concrete canal. The project aims to provide irrigation to the Bundelkhand region, which is one of the worst drought-affected areas in India.
  • The beneficiary states are Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
  • It will meet the irrigation purposes, drinking water, and electricity needs of 6 districts in both states.
  • The proposed concrete canal would be 221 km long. It will pass through Jhansi, Banda, and Mahoba districts of UP and Chhatarpur, Panna, and Tikamgarh districts of MP.
  • A tripartite Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Centre and the governments of UP and MP for the project.

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.


The KBLP was first proposed in 1982 by the National Water Development Agency (NWDA), which was then still in the process of forming, as part of its Interlinking of Rivers programme (ILR). The KBLP is part of the central government’s plan to connect 30 of India’s river basins and build a 12,500-kilometer canal system across the country.

The ILR is a massive infrastructure project aimed at redistributing India’s water resources by transporting water from wet to dry areas, similar to a countrywide plumbing system. According to a report on the ILR program’s economic impact, areas with “surplus” water would benefit from flood mitigation, while areas with “deficit” water would benefit from increased supply, allowing for greater agricultural productivity and drought protection.

In 1995, the NWDA published a feasibility report for the Ken-Betwa project.

The cost of the Ken-Betwa Link Project is estimated to be Rs 35,111.24 crore at 2017-18 prices, according to another Comprehensive Detailed Project Report.

This engineering-led approach to managing water resources has fallen out of favour in the decades since the scheme was first sketched out. The scientific community has advocated for improving water efficiency and conservation over large infrastructure projects that disrupt river flow, damage ecosystems, and flood vast areas in order to build reservoirs around the world.

Despite the red flags, the NDA government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) revived the KBLP and declared it a national project shortly after taking power in 2014.

In June 2016, Uma Bharti, the then-minister of water resources, reportedly threatened to go on “anshan,” or hunger strike, if the environmental clearance for the Ken and Betwa river project was delayed again. In less than four months, the project received two of the three required clearances—environmental and wildlife. In May 2017, it also received stage 1 forest clearance*.

Regions benefitting from KBLP

  • The project lies in Bundelkhand, a drought-prone region, which spreads across 13 districts of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
  • It will be of immense benefit to the water-starved region of Bundelkhand, especially in 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.
  • It will pave the way for more interlinking of river projects to ensure that scarcity of water does not become an inhibitor to development in the country.

Why did environmentalists protest?

Conservation activists protested the announcement of the project citing several reasons:

  1. Nearly 8,650 hectares of forest land including part of Panna National Park in Madhya Pradesh will be submerged if the project were to become a reality.
  2. It will also have an adverse impact on tiger reserves and wildlife sanctuaries in the region.

The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) had given clearance to this project with a few conditions. The clearance from the NBWL was required as the project would warrant the diversion of forest land from the core area of the Panna Tiger Reserve. The conditions set by the NBWL are:

  1. To compensate for the loss of tiger habitat and to complete the ban of fresh mining lease in the area, the sanctuaries of Ranipur and Rani Durgavati were to be integrated with the Panna Tiger Reserve.
  2. The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) would handle the landscape plan for the area with the help of the Wildlife Institute of India.

Previous examples of river-linking

  • In the past, several river linking projects have been taken up. For instance, under the Periyar Project, the transfer of water from the Periyar basin to the Vaigai basin was envisaged.
  • It was commissioned in 1895.
  • Similarly, other projects such as Parambikulam Aliyar, Kurnool Cudappah Canal, Telugu Ganga Project, and Ravi-Beas-Sutlej were undertaken.

Ken River

  • The Ken River originates near village Ahirgawan on the north-west slopes of Kaimur Range in Jabalpur district and travels a distance of 427 km, before merging with the Yamuna.

Betwa River

  • It is  rising in the Vindhya Range just north of Hoshangabad, Madhya Pradesh
  • The  Betwa  River traverses a long distance of 654 Km.  from its source near   Bhopal in M.P. up to its confluence with river Yamuna.

About National River Linking Project(NRLP):

  • National River Linking Project (NRLP) also known as the National Perspective Plan aims to link Indian rivers by a network of reservoirs and canals.
  • Objective: The main objective is to transfer water from water ‘surplus’ basins suffering from floods to water ‘deficit’ basins suffering from drought/scarcity.
  • Prepared by: The then Ministry of Irrigation prepared this plan in August 1980.
  • Managed by: The NRLP is managed by National Water Development Agency (NWDA) under the Ministry of Jal Shakti.
  • Components: The plan proposes 30 river links to connect 37 rivers across India under two components:
    • Himalayan Rivers Development Component: Under this, 14 river links have been identified.
    • Peninsular Rivers Development Component or the Southern Water Grid: It includes 16 river links. Ken Betwa Link Project is one among them

Source: PIB

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