The Ken-Betwa river linking project, monitored closely by the Prime Minister’s Office, is likely to take off only by the end of this year said top ranked officials in the union ministry of water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation. The first river linking project proposed in the country that will diver water from Ken river in Madhya Pradesh to Betwa in Uttar Pradesh for irrigation is yet to receive three crucial clearances – environment clearance, forest clearance and wildlife clearance – from the union ministry of environment, forest and climate change.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>According to officials of the water resources ministry all three clearances are before different expert appraisal panels of the union environment ministry, under process. “Obtaining all three clearances will take a while and local villagers too need to be rehabilitated by the state government of Madhya Pradesh. The actual work on the project is likely to begin only by 2015 end,” a top ranked official of water ministry told dna.The submergence of 41 sqkm of forest in Panna tiger reserve (PTR) and 14 sq.km of forest in Chattarpur due to the project and disturbance to tiger habitat are two most importance issues that have been flagged by union environment ministry’s panels and environmental organisations.The Rs 9,393 crore river-linking project plans to irrigate 6.35 lakh hectares of land and it will split the Panna Tiger Reserve where tigers had depleted in 2009 and were re-populated with great effort. According to the the project’s nodal agency National Water Development Agency (NWDA), the project will also involve construction of a dam near Daudhan village in Chhatarpur district and a total of 1585 villages across 10 villages will be displaced by the project.The project proposal has already been appraised twice in 2015 by the environment appraisal committee (EAC) of the environment ministry. In their August meeting, the EAC noted that the project will affect a significant part of PTR as nearly 8 per cent of its forest will get submerged, including its core area. The committee deferred clearance for need of more scrutiny. In its October meeting, the EAC specifically pointed out that the a Landscape Management Plan, that was being prepared by Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, was needed before taking any call on the environment clearance. The EAC also said that they received several objections against the project from environmental organisations and former power secretary EAS Sarma. The project’s next hearing before EAC is due next week.Officials from the union environment ministry and water ministry said that the project will be appraised for wildlife clearance this month as it has been recommended for clearance by Madhya Pradesh government for wildlife clearance. As far as the forest clearance is concerned for clearing 52 sqkm of forest, the project has not moved much. A proposal was sent to the Centre in March 2015 but was sent back to the NWDA for shortcomings regarding information on village area, cost benefit analysis and settlement of forest rights.