Panna Tiger Reserve will be irretrievably damaged by Ken-Betwa river linkage project: Sonia Gandhi

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New Delhi, Apr 9 (PTI) Congress president Sonia Gandhi has urged the Centre not to implement the Ken-Betwa river linkage project in its present form, saying it will have a 'devastating' impact on the Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh.

In a letter to Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, she also said that the tiger reserve will be 'irretrievably' damaged by the project.

'I am writing to you to express my deep concern on the devastating impact of the Ken-Betwa river linkage project on the Panna Tiger Reserve (PTR) in Madhya Pradesh,' she said, adding that many people have shared their concern with her in this regard and she is writing on their behalf too.

'I request you as the Union minister of environment, forests and climate change to ensure that this project in its present shape and form does not get implemented. I gather PILs are pending both in the NGT (National Green Tribunal) and the Supreme Court,' Gandhi said.

She added that many conservationists in Madhya Pradesh and from across the country have called for the abandonment of the project.

The Congress chief said that over the past decade, Panna has been revived with great difficulty and with the dedicated efforts of the state government and the National Tiger Conservation Authority under the environment ministry.

'It is considered an outstanding example of translocation and successful breeding. It is now threatened by the river linking project and the state government's open estimate is that around 40 percent of the area of the PTR will be irretrievably damaged,' she said.

Gandhi noted that around 18 lakh trees, which are the most valuable carbon sink, will be removed from the submergence area.

Apart from this, serious questions have been raised on the basic issue of water availability itself for the proposed transfer, she said.

The agreement to implement the Ken-Betwa river link project was signed on March 22 by the Jal Shakti Ministry and the governments of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. This is the first major project under the National River Linking Project (NRLP).

The Ken-Betwa Link Project (KBLP) involves transfer of water from the Ken to the Betwa river through the construction of the Daudhan Dam and a canal linking the two rivers, the Lower Orr project, Kotha Barrage and the Bina Complex Multipurpose Project. PTI SKC ANB ANB