THE STANDING committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) cleared Phase-I of Ken-Betwa river link project in its first meeting with new Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave as chairman.
The minutes of the meeting, held on August 23, was approved Monday.
The Rs 10,000-crore project requires diversion of 5,258 hectares of forest land, including 4,141 hectares of Panna Tiger Reserve.
As reported by The Indian Express on May 12, the project was given in-principle approval in the 38th meeting of the NBWL standing committee on May 10. Facing flak, the ministry decided to hold further deliberations with engineering and hydrological experts “in view of differing opinions on the height of the water impending structures and resulting impact.”
At the 39th meeting on August 23, the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) director “indicated that the (expert) group was convinced that reducing dam height by 10 metres will result in non-availability of water for linking”.
The proposal to drop the plan for power generation, given the project’s focus on fighting drought in the Bundelkhand region, was also shot down after the Ministry of Water Resources assured that power generation facilities would be outside the tiger reserve. Accordingly, the committee decided to recommend the project without any modification with these additional conditions:
* To compensate for direct loss of 105 sq km of tiger habitat, Nauradehi, Rani Durgavati and Ranipur wildlife sanctuaries will be integrated in Panna Tiger Reserve; affected forest villagers will be rehabilitated at project’s cost.
* The dam reservoir area will be retained as core tiger reserve with minimum activities.
* No fishing will be allowed at the dam site.
* No new mining leases will be allowed on tiger dispersal routes.
* A landscape-based plan for the area will be finalised with the National Tiger Conservation Authority in lead, assisted by WII, state forest department and the project proponents.