The cost of the interlinking project to transfer water from the Ken to the Betwa river has now reached Rs. 18,000 crore, or nearly double the estimate used by the National Board for Wildlife to accord clearances to the project last year. 

Because it disturbs the habitat of resident wildlife and requires the diversion of forest land in Madhya Pradesh, the project required a wildlife, forest and environmental clearance by separate, independent committees. 

Going by publicly-available records, documents estimated the project cost to be about Rs. 9,393 crore.

The main feature of the project is a 230-km long canal and a series of barrages and dams connecting the Ken and Betwa rivers that will irrigate 3.5 lakh hectares in Madhya Pradesh and 14,000 hectares of land in Uttar Pradesh’s Bundelkhand. 

The key projects are the Makodia and Dhaudhan dams, the latter expected to be 77 metres high and responsible for submerging 5,803 hectares of tiger habitat in the Panna Tiger Reserve.

Reasons for Cost escalation
Officials involved with the project said that re-evaluations of the cost of resettlement and rehabilitation of families resident in the area, and re-estimating the cost of the value of the forests that would be lost to the dam, as well as inflation, have led to the escalated costs. 

Implications of cast escalation
Funding the project has now emerged as the next big hurdle which, according to Union Minister Uma Bharti, would take about seven years to be ready.