The Union Cabinet has decided to revive the North Koel Reservoir Project, stalled since 1993, and claims it will irrigate over 40,000 hectares in some of the most backward and drought-prone regions in Jharkhand and Bihar. The centre piece of the project, the Mandal dam, will be made smaller than proposed and capacity reduced by up to 85%, to accede to environmental and forest norms.
The dam threatened to submerge portions of the Betla National Park and the Palamau Tiger Reserve and in its truncated avatar will cause only “minimal” submergence of the reserve. The National Wildlife Boardcleared the project two months ago but imposed conditions. A 24 MW power project that was to be part of the original design has also been scrapped.
Earlier, the Centre faced formidable challenges to clearing the Ken Betwa project that will part submerge the Panna Tiger reserve. The project is situated on the North Koel river. The construction originally began in 1972 and continued till 1993 when it was stopped by the Bihar forest department. The project aims to provide irrigation to 111,521 hectares of land annually in the most backward and drought prone areas of Palamu and Garhwa districts in Jharkhand and Aurangabad and Gaya districts in Bihar.