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UP to get less Ken-Betwa water in non-monsoon period as Modi govt revises river-linking deal

The Rs 18,000-crore project receives fresh push after Jal Shakti ministry sends revised agreement to Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh for concurrence.

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New Delhi: In limbo for over two years now, India’s first river linking project connecting Ken river in Madhya Pradesh with Betwa in Uttar Pradesh has received a fresh push, with the Narendra Modi government making a revised deal for the two states, specifying the quantum of water to be shared by them, ThePrint has learnt.

In the new memorandum of agreement sent about a fortnight ago, the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti reduced UP’s share of water from the rivers during the non-monsoon period (lean season). It also didn’t concede the Madhya Pradesh government’s demand to allow it usage of the entire quantum of surplus water available at the dam site.

“Once the two states concur, the Centre will go ahead and sign the agreement,” said a senior official of the Jal Shakti ministry, who did not wish to be named. Both MP and UP are yet to give their response to the new agreement, the official said.

“The revised agreement was drafted taking into account the various concerns raised by both the states during a series of deliberations that have been going on since 2018,” the official added.

Conceptualised way back in the 1980s, the ambitious Ken-Betwa river linking project has failed to get off the drawing board, primarily because of differences between the two states over water sharing during non-monsoon season, funding issues and regulatory clearances.

Work on the project was originally slated to start in 2015. The project comprises two phases. The first phase, to be built at an estimated cost of Rs 18,000 crore, involves building a 77-metre high dam across Ken river near Daudhan village in Madhya Pradesh. Once complete, the project will provide irrigation to about 6 lakh hectares of land and supply drinking water to 14 lakh people in the two states.

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What the revised agreement proposes

According to the new agreement, UP will be allowed to draw 750 mcm (million cubic meters) of the total 1800 mcm of water from the river between November and May — during the lean season when the water flow is less. Madhya Pradesh would get the remaining 1,049 mcm of water.

Uttar Pradesh had originally demanded 935 mcm of the total water. It agreed to reduce this to 788 mcm in 2018 after Madhya Pradesh did not agree.

“MP wants UP to get a lesser share of water during the non-monsoon period on the ground that its water requirement during the lean season is more,” said a second Jal Shakti ministry official.

However, UP’s water share annually has been fixed at 1700 mcm while MP will be able to draw 2,350 mcm.

The ministry has also not agreed to the MP government’s demand to allow it to use the entire quantum of surplus water to the tune of 6,590 mcm available at the Daudhan dam site in the upper catchment area.

“In 2005, the yield of water at the dam site was 6,188 mcm. This has now increased to 6,590 mcm, as study conducted by the Roorkee-based National Institute of Hydrology had found. MP wants the right to use the entire quantum of surplus water,” the second official said.

While work is yet to take off in the first phase of the project, Madhya Pradesh has started work on some sections of the second phase, which includes three local water management projects.

“MP had demanded that the Centre should reimburse the amount spent by the state on these three projects. We have agreed to their proposal,” the second official added.

While no official decision has been taken over the funding of the project, the Centre had earlier informally agreed to foot 90 per cent of the project cost. The remaining 10 per cent was to be shared by the two states.

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