THE RS 10,000-crore Ken-Betwa river-linking project has got the go-ahead for environment clearance. The nod comes even as the project is being examined by the Supreme Court’s Central Empowered Committee (CEC) for adequacy of mitigative measures against its adverse impact on the Panna tiger reserve in Madhya Pradesh.
The ambitious project requires diversion of 5,258 hectares of forest land, including 4,141 hectares of the Panna reserve, and was cleared by the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) last August. On December 30, the Environment Ministry’s Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for river valley and hydel projects recommended the project for environment clearance.
The CEC, meanwhile, had informed the Ministry in a letter on December 2 that it “would like to examine this (Ken-Betwa) proposal from the point of adequacy of mitigative measures against the adverse impacts of the project on the ecological integrity of Panna Tiger Reserve and particularly the riverine eco-system”.
The Ministry responded to the CEC’s request to make available relevant papers and reports related to the project only last week, after the project was cleared by the EAC. The CEC can approach the Supreme Court, if it feels aggrieved by a decision of the the NBWL panel.
The minutes of the December 30 EAC meeting note that the “consensus” at an internal meeting of the ministry on November 30 was to delink the landscape management plan (LMP) for the project-affected tiger habitat from the perspective of environmental clearance.
Last year, the EAC had called for the LMP and decided to reconsider the project only after obtaining a second opinion from an external expert.
Soon after the Ken-Betwa project was recommended for wildlife clearance, Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti had said that she was confident about an early environmental clearance. Last month, she claimed that “the last hurdle” was cleared and the project would be launched as soon as the funding pattern was finalised.