Open Letter to NBWL Standing Committee Members: Why NBWL should not consider Ken Betwa River Link Proposal

Above: A fabulous view of Ken river. Nesting sites of Long-billed vultures are to the right. All will go under water if Ken-Betwa linkup is carried out, Photo by AJT Johnsingh

November 3, 2015


Chairman & Members, NBWL Standing Committee, MoEF&CC, New Delhi

Respected Chairman and members,

We have just learnt that NBWL standing committee is to meet tomorrow, that is Nov 4, 2015 and one of the proposals that the NBWL is to consider is the Ken Betwa River Link proposal INSIDE Panna Tiger Reserve. We are unable to find the agenda, agenda papers and names and contact details of the NWBL SC members. Prudent, transparent and democratic decision making requires that these should be in public domain at least two weeks in advance of the NWBL meeting, so that all concerned from any part of the nation can know about this, and write to NBWL with their views and concerns. We hope MoEF, full NBWL and NBWL standing committee will take urgent steps to ensure that until this minimum requirement is satisfied, no meeting of NBWL or NBWL SC is held, and we request you postpone the meeting proposed on Nov 4, 2015 till this requirement is fulfilled. 

  1. Before NBWL can consider the Ken Betwa Project (KBP) proposal, Madhya Pradesh State Board on Wild Life (SBWL) was to clear it in an informed way. At the SBWL meeting on Aug 11, 2015, members raised a number of issues on KBP and its impact on Panna Tiger Reserve and Ken Ghariyal Wild Life Sanctuary. However, at the next meeting of MP SBWL on Sept 22, 2015, the chairman and government officials, without answering the issues raised by the non governmental expert members of SBWL, or the issues raised in the previous meeting, pushed ahead and cleared the project. This is apparent from the four page letter from two of the independent members of the MP SBWL, attached as four PDF page files. They had raised both procedural and substantive issues, neither have been reflected in the minutes of the 12th meeting, nor resolved in the 13th meeting of the SBWL. Under the circumstances, NBWL should not even be considering this and they should send it back to SBWL to reconsider after satisfactorily responding to the issues raised in the letter. We hope NBWL does that, else the consideration of the project will remain open to legal challenge.
  1. The then Field Director of Panna Tiger Reserve and a member of 4 member committee set up by the NTCA in 2013 to review the Ken Betwa Proposal has submitted a detailed dissent note. There has been no discussion or response to this dissent note by (1) members of the 4 member committee (2) NTCA (3) Wildlife Institute of India, a member of the 4 member committee, (4) project proponent NWDA (5) The EIA agency (6) SBWL. Without consideration of this detailed dissent note by these official agencies and satisfactory response, it would not be proper for the NBWL to consider the proposal.
  1. Shri H S Panwar, Padma Bhushan, former director of Project Tiger (1981-85) & former director of WII (1985-1994) has written a detailed note why this project should not be considered till there is a proper and credible Environmental Impact Assessment (current EIA is clearly unacceptable and not credible, he has concluded, as have many others), see: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2015/10/29/what-ails-dpr-and-eia-of-ken-betwa-link-project-a-note-for-eac-of-moefcc/. NBWL should not consider the proposal, without a fresh EIA has he has recommended.
  1. J Van Gruisen & R.S. Chundawat  of Baavan – Bagh, Aap Aur Van have written a detailed note explaining how poor, and flawed the EIA is. see: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2015/10/27/ken-betwa-river-link-project-involves-indias-first-major-dam-inside-national-park-it-needs-fresh-credible-eia-not-misleading-falsehoods-from-nwda/. Their conclusion is valid for NBWL too: “We continue to contend that a fresh EIA is required, done by an appropriately expert and credible agency, before this project can be considered in any meaningful way. Kindly do not make a decision on such inadequate documentation.”
  1. SANDRP has also documented the various procedural and substantive issues in the KBP consideration, and sent them to official agencies, some of them can be seen here:

1. https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2015/08/25/letter-to-moef-expert-appraisal-committee-reject-ken-betwa-proposal/, 2. https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/why-ken-betwa-eia-by-afcl-is-unacceptable/, 3. https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/violations-in-ken-betwa-riverlink-public-hearings-in-last-week-of-2014/. Our latest submission to the Expert Appraisal Committee of MoEF, reviewing the NWDA response to earlier SANDRP and other submissions in Oct 2015 is attached.

  1. In this submission and in others, we have shown how the EIA has failed to adequately assess the impact of the project on the Panna Tiger Reserve or the Ken Ghariyal Wildlife Sanctuary. This clearly necessitates, at the bare minimum, a fresh environmental impact assessment of the project on these sanctuaries before NBWL can even consider the project. Today there is no such impact assessment available while the EIA is flawed, inadequate, and unacceptable and will not stand legal scrutiny.
  1. In the meantime, we are shocked to learn the extent to which KBP is poised to affect the Ken Ghariyal WLS. This impact will certainly be there due to the hydrological changes that will happen due to the construction and operation of the KBP, and which has not been properly assessed. More shockingly, according to the project DPR of April 2010 (see attached selected pages), one of the components of the project is “A 850 m long barrage with crest level of 181 m across Ken River about 1.0 km d/s of existing Bariyarpur pick up weir”. This is from the NWDA’s latest available DPR. However, the EIA only mentions the DPR of 2008, which did not include this proposal. So the EIA is based on an outdated DPR and does not even consider full project components. This specific component will be seriously impacting the Ken Ghariyal WLS (we understand this new proposed weir will be inside the Ken Ghariyal WLS and will need land from the Ken Ghariyal WLS), but there is no mention of this either in the EIA, in the 4 member committee report of NTCA, in the MP SBWL  consideration, or even in the proposal before the NBWL, we assume. So the project will be seriously impacting another Wildlife Sanctuary, besides the Panna Tiger Reserve, and the developer seems to have hidden this information from all concerned. This is disturbing, and is another reason why the NBWL should not only refuse to consider the project, but send it back to the SBWL and EAC to ask for fresh impact assessment study that will also include this component.

Under the circumstances, we urge the NBWL NOT to consider the project, ask the project proponent to go back to the SBWL and EAC only after a fresh EIA from a credible agency. Without this, any consideration of the project by NBWL standing committee will be improper and it will not stand legal scrutiny.

We will look forward to your point-wise detailed response on these issues.

Thanking you,

Yours sincerely,

Himanshu Thakkar, for SANDRP

Ken River in PTR-Glimpse of long deep gorge (Photo by RS Murthy)
Ken River in PTR-Glimpse of long deep gorge (Photo by RS Murthy)

2 thoughts on “Open Letter to NBWL Standing Committee Members: Why NBWL should not consider Ken Betwa River Link Proposal

  1. Thanks for this detailed letter, it clearly spells out why the NBWL should not even consider for discussion the Ken Betwa Rivel Link Proposal – it also rightly questions the arbitary manner in which the NBWL seems to be functioning – I believe in Government institutions and hope that better sense prevails with the NBWL – this is a priceless heritage not only of the state of MP or India but actually of this world and will be made at great price to the local economy


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