In a setback to India’s pioneering river linking initiative, the Ken-Betwa project, the construction tender for the crucial Daudhan Dam and two tunnels within Madhya Pradesh’s Panna Tiger Reserve has encountered a major hurdle – no companies have submitted bids. This development raises concerns about potential delays and escalated project costs for an endeavor designed to address water scarcity and bolster irrigation across regions.
Project Commencement and Recent Challenges
Initiated through a tripartite agreement signed on March 22, 2021, involving Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and the central government, the Ken-Betwa Link project plays a pivotal role in India’s water resource management strategy.
The National Water Development Authority (NWDA) initiated the tender process in August 2023, setting a deadline in October. However, the absence of participation led to an extension until January 18, 2024. Despite the additional time, companies showed reluctance, prompting a third extension until March 5, 2024.
Officials are apprehensive about potential cost overruns should companies continue to abstain from the bidding process. In response, the NWDA has scheduled discussions with companies on February 2 to address concerns and issues, aiming to encourage at least three participants in the tender process.
CEO Insights and Environmental Concerns
Prashast Kumar Dixit, CEO of the Ken Betwa Link Project, acknowledged the companies’ reservations, emphasizing ongoing efforts to understand and resolve their concerns. Environmental clearance emerged as a significant concern, especially with the dam’s proposed construction in the core area of the Panna Tiger Reserve, echoing similar worries raised during the Lower Orr Dam project.
Detailed Project Phases and Components
The proposed Daudhan Dam, spanning 2,031 meters across the Ken River, incorporates both earthen and concrete elements. This dam is a critical component of the broader Ken-Betwa project, which seeks to irrigate extensive areas, generate hydropower, and implement efficient water resource management.
The Ken-Betwa project unfolds in two phases, with the initial phase focusing on completing the Daudhan Dam complex. The subsequent phase entails constructing the Lower Orr Dam, Bina Complex Project, and Kotha Barrage.
With an estimated cost of ₹44,605 crore, the project spans nine districts in Madhya Pradesh and four districts in Uttar Pradesh. Its objectives include generating 34 MW of hydropower and irrigating 6.3 lakh hectares of land annually, positioning it as a transformative initiative for regional development and water resource optimization.
As the government endeavors to surmount the challenges in securing tenders, the Ken-Betwa River Linking Project stands at a critical crossroads, necessitating collaborative solutions for its successful realization.
Note: The Ken-Betwa River Linking Project is integral to the National Perspective Plan (NPP), representing a strategic initiative to augment water availability and agricultural productivity across states.