The controversial Ken-Betwa river link project, which came up for discussions at the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) meeting on Tuesday, could get a stamp of approval soon, without any changes.
A committee set up to look into the technical aspects of the project — such as the potential to reduce the height of the dam by five metres and the possibility to relocate revenue villages in the Panna Tiger Reserve landscape.
The committee’s report, which was placed before the FAC, has completely brushed aside concerns over inadequate availability of water for the dam and as a result for any need to reduce the height of the dam.
The committee has accepted the arguments from the National Water Development Agency and the Central Water Commission, both under the Ministry of Water Resources, that “the present height of the dam has been arrived at after a very thorough field study, data collection and technical analysis by various experts and, therefore, any reduction in the height of the dam now would make the whole project technically unfeasible.”
The committee’s report is in line with the views of Minister for Water Resources Uma Bharti who has earlier threatened to go on strike if the project is delayed and has strongly opposed any proposal to reduce the height of the dam — a move which could potentially reduce the area of the Panna Tiger Reserve that gets submerged.
More than 100 sq km of the prime tiger habitat is expected to get submerged, impacting a significant portion of critical habitat for the endangered animal. The submergence is also going to fragment the habitat, making sustenance for tigers harder.
A senior official confirmed the submission of the report and said, “We will place these findings before the Minister (Environment Minister Anil Dave). The final decision will have to be taken by him.”
The committee has further recommended that a number of revenue villages in the Panna Reserve landscape would need to be relocated to make corridors for tiger movements, to compensate for fragmentation of the habitat. The number of villages and the number of more people who would be affected is yet uncertain.