River-linking project may affect Panna Tiger Reserve

River-linking project may affect Panna Tiger Reserve New Delhi: Casting shadow over the fate of the upcoming Ken-Betwa river link between Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has said that it would have bearing on the Panna Tiger Reserve.

"I was shocked to find that Panna Tiger Reserve is involved in the Ken-Betwa river link which is the only project (on inter-linking river) that has progressed so far," Ramesh said recently.

Ken-Betwa link will transfer excess water from Ken to Betwa through a 231-km canal. Only 18 km of the canal would be in Uttar Pradesh.

The critical observation by the minister has come close on the heels of the ministry's rejection of coal mining proposals from Adani Power Ltd and Maharashtra Coal Company as they were adjacent to Tadoba Tiger Reserve in the state.

"I have already intervened and rejected two coal mining projects near Tadoba Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra," Ramesh said indicating the course of action he is likely to take in the river linking project which threatens to submerge at least 140 hectares of land of Panna Tiger Reserve.

"The proposal for divergence of a chunk of land from Panna Tiger Reserve is yet to come up before the Environment Ministry. But it should not be given nod at any cost given the threat to the tiger habitat," wildlife expert P K Sen said.

He said it is the forest land in Madhya Pradesh that is going to be a casualty as out of 8,650 hectares likely to get submerged, 6,400 hectares are forest land and 2,171 hectares culturable land. Some of it falls under the Panna National Park.

Ken is the last tributary of Yamuna before it joins Ganga. 87 percent of it lies in Madhya Pradesh and 12 percent is in Uttar Pradesh while Betwa is an inter-state river that rises in Raisen district of MP. This is also a tributary of Yamuna.

A tripartite MoU was signed between the Union Minister for Water Resources and Chief Ministers of UP and MP in 2005 for preparing a Detailed Project Report of Ken-Betwa link.