India’s Mighty River gets a breather and People a Voice
Sep 24, 2010
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River Ganga occupies a unique place in the hearts of millions of Indians whose faith is intimately connected with her. Rituals from birth to death take place all along the flowing river and the confluence in search for salvation. Tying the river through dams at interval that restricts it natural flow would amount to playing with the sentiments of millions. It is therefore, necessary that river Ganga is allowed to maintain its natural flow specially in stretches that are in close proximity of the habitation enabling them to perform rituals and to hear its sound which is being heard for generations. …….. river Alaknanda cannot afford to carry a project between Deoprayag and Srinagar. Overall there is also mass public resentment against the project which has not been considered by the EAC (expert Appraisal Committee of the Ministry of Environment and Forest). Merely responding the representation of two persons is not sufficient. [Excerpts from the decision of the National Environment Appellate Authority, India dated 15-9-2010]

The above judegement delivered by India’s Environment Tribunal led to the first ever cancellation of a Dam by the Tribunal. The National Environment Appellate Authority (NEAA) on 15.09.2010 quashed the Environment Clearance granted to Kotlibhel-1B Hydro Electric Project on river Ganga, Uttrakhand. However NEAA has upheld the permission granted to two other projects Kotlibhel -1A and Kotlibhel Stage-II. Three projects are proposed by National Hydro Power Corporation around the confluence of river Bhagirathi and Alaknanda which is known as Devprayag. Kotlibhel IA is proposed on river Bhagirathi, Kotlibhel IB on river Alaknanda and Kotlibhel Stage II on river Ganga. These projects were granted environment clearance by Ministry of Environment and forest and same was challenged by affected community. This is for the first time that any environmental clearance granted to the Hydro Electric Project in Uttrakhand has been quashed. The Appellate Authority has allowed the appeal of the affected people and said that the quantum of power production in Kotlibhel-IB, the displacement is very high. The Authority has also taken note of the fact that peoples were opposed to the project and the Expert Appraisal Committee of the Ministry of Environment & Forest has not considered the public resentment against the project. The Authority has said mere responding to representation of two person is not sufficient. Three projects proposed will not only affect the communities but will also submerge the place with religious value name Devprayag. This is the place from where the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi meet and then known as Ganga. Important aspect of number of person affected by the project was raised before the Authority. The Project Proponent is only taking those people whose lands are acquired as an affected person and excluding those whose are affected but their lands are not acquired. Other important issues which were raised before the Appellate Authority are: • The Public hearing conducted for the project was done without giving proper notice to the affected person, villagers and not providing the copies of EIA (Environment Impact Assessment) and EMP(Environment Management Plan) reports. • Loss of resources to the communities in terms of water, fuel wood, grazing land, sand among others was not assessed. • The Project was split into three to show the minimal impact and no cumulative impact study was done. Apart from these other points like cost benefit analysis, impact on otters and fish, green house impact, respiratory diseases and malaria due to water impounding were raised before the Appellate Authority by the communities challenging the projects. Though the Appellate Authority did not accepted the contention of the communities and affected people to stop the other two project Kotlibhel Stage IA and Kotlibhel Stage II but asked the Ministry of Environment and Forest to take note of the outcome of proposed ‘Comprehensive Ganga River Basin Management Plan’ while implementing these two projects. Comprehensive Ganga River Basin Management Plan is proposed by Ministry of Environment & Forest, to prepare a plan to ensure free flowing river Ganga. The Appeal was filed by affected people led by Vimal Bhai of Matu People’s organization and Prof Bharat Jhunjhunwala with legal support from TAI india lead: Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE) Contact: Rahul Choudhary rahulchoudharry@gmail.com Ritwick Dutta ritwickdutta@gmail.com

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