Socio-Economic impact of Ken-Betwa River Link Project in Bundelkhand Region

The access to clean and potable drinking water is essential for leading a life with human dignity. Water is not only essential for the survival of human life but it also plays a major role in the socio-economic development of the country. The region of Bundelkhand spread over Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh has been dealing with the issue of water crisis since independence. The majority population in this region lives in the rural areas and agriculture is a prominent occupation of the people. The major source of water for agriculture is rainfall during the monsoon session in this region and due to the change in the monsoon rainfall pattern, water scarcity has been a major issue for this region for several decades. The consecutive drought conditions in this region causes the poverty, hunger issues, water scarcity, low crop productivity, poor irrigation, poor soil fertility which have impact on human life as well as on livestock.[i] [ii]Along with this, women in the region are subjected to many difficulties and exploitations while commuting from one place to another place in search of water.[iii]

Although the river interlinking proposal was envisioned in the year 1982 but it was incorporated and worked on by Vajpayee led NDA government during 1999-2004. The NDA government set up a task force in December 2002 to provide water in every corner of the country by inter linking the major rivers in the country. When congress came to power in 2004, the project of interlinking rivers was completely ignored and fell off track during their tenure which only showcases their lack of political will and vision. As a result, the Bundelkhand region is still facing a huge water scarcity issue. Since 2005 to 2014, around 62 lakh people have migrated from this region due to the drought situation[iv].

It was under the leadership of PM Modi the country has seen radical reform in the existing institutional framework of water governance by rolling out  ‘Har Ghar Jal’ and Ken-Betwa River Link Project under ‘Jal Jeevan Mission’ in 2019 with an aim of resolving the water crisis by providing tap water supply to every rural household.[v] In March 2021, the Ministry of Jalshakti, Government of India and Chief Ministers of State of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to implement Ken-Betwa River Link Project under National River Linking Project (NRLP)[vi] in lieu of former Prime Minister Late Shri. Atalbihari Vajpayee’s vision to provide water to drought prone and water deficit areas.

The project will connect two major rivers from Bundelkhand region- Ken and Betwa which involves transferring of water from Ken to Betwa River by constructing Daudhan Dam and a canal linking the two rivers, the Lower Orr Project, Kotha barrage and Bina Complex multipurpose project. As a part of this vision, this project will provide enormous benefits to the thirteen districts of Panna, Tikamgarh, Chhatarpur, Sagar, Damoh, Datia, Vidisha, Shivpuri and Raisen of Madhya Pradesh and Banda, Mahoba, Jhansi and Lalitpur of Uttar Pradesh. This ambitious project will prove to be a game changer which will significantly increase socio-economic activities in the water deprived Bundelkhand region. The project will irrigate 10.62 lakh hectare agriculture land annually which includes 8.11 lakh hectares from Madhya Pradesh and 2.51 lakh hectares from Uttar Pradesh. This will in turn benefit the farmers of both the states by increasing the crop productivity, resolve the problem of water scarcity and will help in the upliftment of farmers by ensuring them a better livelihood. The connection of canals will provide fresh drinking water to the 6.2 million people of the region and will generate 103MW of hydropower and 27 MW solar power, thus resolving the issue of electricity and major step towards producing clean energy. [vii]

With the availability of water, Bundelkhand will attract more investments and boost economic activities including the agricultural activities in the region. This will result in generating more employment opportunities for the local population and consequently reduce distress migration from the region. With the ken Betwa project, the Khajuraho and Panna districts which was already the preferred tourist destinations in the Bundelkhand region will further attract more inflow of tourist. With the formation of reservoirs, the region will further develop other tourist spots in the region.[viii]

It is sad that even after so many years of independence, we as a nation has failed to provide ‘access to clean drinking water’ to the most deprived and vulnerable population of our country.  It is due to the timely intervention and the firm commitment of the incumbent government which has ensured that the ‘no one is left out from getting safe drinking water and regular water supply for irrigation’. The successful implementation of the Ken Betwa project will not only resolve the issue of water crisis of Bundelkhand region but it will pave the way for more interlinking of river projects and further ensure that scarcity of water does not become an inhibitor for development in the country.


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