Dams work continues in Bhagirathi Valley
The Minister for Environment and Forests Mr. Jairam Ramesh, on 29th of August, 2009 in a workshop organized by the Center for Science and Environment, reported saying that the construction work of Lohrinag-Pala dam has been stopped. After this on 5th of September Mr. G. D. Aggarwal suspended his proposed fast in Varanasi quoting “Construction work at the Lohrinag Pala dam has stopped and the Government is doing its job properly.” But the ground reality is quite different. Construction work at any of the dams in Bhagirathi Valley, Uttarakhand has not been suspended. Even work is running in full swing in these projects i.e. Bhairon Ghati and Pala-Maneri where the Uttarakhand Government had agreed to stop the construction work during the fast of Mr. G. D. Aggarwal in June 2008. In the Pala Maneri dam area land-acquisition is going on and compensation is given to the affected people.
On 4th of July, 2008 Prof. Aggarwal suspended his fasting when the Govt. formed a Review Committee to look into the issue of environmental flow of Bhagirathi River at Lohrinag-Pala dam. But later he got unsatisfied with the proceedings of the committee and sat on huger strike again from 14th of January 2009. This time the Central Govt. sent two letters to Prof Aggarwal on 5th and 18th of February, 2009. In these letters the center assured that the construction of Lohrinag-Pala dam will be stopped and no more dams will be constructed on the Bhagirathi River. But the construction has been suspended only for 3/4 days somehow and after that it never stopped, continuing till today.
RELAC, a Dehradoon based NGO which claims to be working for environment and employment had challenged this order in Nainital High Court. On the basis of this petition the Nainital High Court immediately put a stay order of the Power Ministry’s order of stopping the dam work. After several months on 18th of May, 2009 the High Court, hearing to all the parties involved in the case, suspended the petition of RELAC. The Court also nullified its old verdict and decided to transfer the issue to the newly formed on The Ganges Authority. The removal of stay implies that the order of the Power Ministry should have been implemented. But the construction work didn’t stop.
In the meantime, on the initiation of Matu Peoples” Organisation (working in Uttarakhand on the Bhagirathi and Alaknanda rivers in the Ganga basin), an Independent Fact Finding Report on the following up of the conditions of the Environment Clearance of 08-02-2009, given to the Lohrinag-Pala Hydro Electric Project (600MW) was prepared on 12th of February and sent to the government. This Independent Fact Finding Report proved that the Lohrinag-Pala HEP authorities are violating all the norms even to the smallest ones as well. The first demand that was made in the report was to cancel the Environment Clearance of the MoEF which is a responsibility entrusted upon the ministry according to the conditions 3 & 7 of the Environment Clearance itself. The second demand was that the MoEF in co-ordination with other Ministries make necessary plans/arrangements for better cultivation of fruit tree gardens and other things in accordance with the ecology of the hills. In order to ensure permanent development of the hills new development policies should be taken where the local people can find employment and the arrangement for training should also be made. But even after all this the dam construction is still on and the MoEF not even take any step.
One thing to be taken into account is that as a result of the fasts and individual decisions taken by Aggarwal Ji, the ecological, environmental as well as social and economical matters which are closely related to dam construction had become insignificant. Instead of those only issue like “Faith and Holiness of Ganges”, “the Mother of the Hindus” gained prominence. Besides there was an idea spread to save only a part of Ganga from Gangotri to Uttarkashi in Bhagirathi River. In the E-mails, sent at the time of his latest fasting, it was said that the loss of stopping these dams will be reimbursed by other upcoming or proposed dams on the Alaknanda River. It is very dangerous as because the Environmental Clearance of the under-construction Kotli-Bhel projects in the down of Tehri Dam, has been challenged in the Court by Matu Peoples’ Organisation along with the local people. There has been a stay order from the Supreme Court of India on the Forest clearance of the project. This project has been proposed in all the 3 rivers i.e. Bhagirathi, Alaknanda and the Ganga. Noteworthy that Devprayag confluence of Ganga is drowning under 6 meters of water.
Like other instances of betrayal in dam construction, the government is repeating the same on the matters of the Ganga as well. It is not a new phenomenon. During the construction of Tehri dam this has equally happened. Now the question is on Governments action. Whether it should congratulate the newly formed Ganga Authority or taking lessons from the past examples it should wait for the outcomes of the Authority. The truth behind existing Bhagirathi River Valley Development Authority and Ganga Action Plan is known to all. Because of the clean chit given to the government on this issue by people like Agarwalji neither any projects had been suspended nor was the Ganga ever cleaned. Government had always used it for its own benefit.
Matu Peoples’ Organisation has written a letter (attached) to the Environment and Forest Minister for his comment and also demanded to suspend the dam construction in reality. Besides, Matu has also informed Aggarwal ji through Swami Avimukteswarananda Ji not to believe in Governmental propagandas but to realise the ground reality.
Letter to Minister MoEF
Shri Jairam Ramesh
Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests (Independent Charge),
C.G.O. Complex, Lodhi Road,
New Delhi 110003
Sub: --Repeal the environment clearance of Loharinaga-Pala project on Bhagirathi
--Comprehensive study of all rivers
We heard that recently you said in a session of “South Asia Media briefing workshop on climate change a workshop” held in Centre for Science & Environment, Delhi dated 28 August 2009 that:-
Work at the Loharinag-Pala HEP has been stalled.
Your ministry is doing a comprehensive study of the impact of existing dam of all rivers and before that no work of any project will be allowed and this study is begin from Bhagirathi.
Many-many thanks for these bold steps. In response of these two points we want to put some facts for your kind information:-
Ref. 1. Matu Peoples’ Organisation has sent letters to your Ministry on 12-2-2009, 26-5-09 and 18-8-09 but hasn’t got any reply from MoEF. Besides the fact is that nothing has been changed in ground. Today after hearing your words we are again asserting same thing that even after violation of many conditions of Environment Clearance given by your own ministry (explained in letter dated 12-2-09). The Power Ministry on 19-2-09 in its order had instructed to suspend the Loharinag-Pala dam work. Although Nainital High Court stayed this order but on 18-5-09 the court vacated the stay order. But the dam work is still continuing. We are attaching some photos taken on 12th August 2009.
Ref. 2. We challenged Pala-Maneri HEP on Bhagirathi River in National Environment Appellate Authority. NEAA passed an order dated 19th April 2007 for the Appeal NO. 5/2006 (Vimal Bhai and Others Vs. Union of India, MoEF and 2 others) said:-
advance cumulative study of series of different Dams coming on any river so as
to assess the optimum capacity of the water resource giving due consideration to
the requirement of the Human beings Cattle, Ecology / Environment etc.;
While we support the demand for scraping this project we would also like to bring your attention on the matter that this order was neither implemented on Pala-Maneri HEP nor in any other projects. Now when MoEF doing comprehensive study of all rivers in which Bhagirathi-Alaknanda is on top priority according to you, then you must also include Pala-Maneri HEP in this study. In this project EIA & EMP made for the public hearing was for 416 MW capacity and the EIA & EMP produced in Environment Appraisal Committee of MoEF was of 480 MW.
Further for your information Kotli-bhel phase-1 A is on Bhagirathi River and this is a new project and the work has not started yet, although Environment and forest clearance has been granted. On Kotli-Bhel 1B (on Alaknanda River) and Kotli-Bhel 2 (on Ganga River) there is a stay on forest clearance by Hon’ble Supreme Court.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court gave decision on 20.02.2009 as below:-
“CEC had made certain recommendations regarding diversion of 258.737 ha of forest land for Kotlibhel Hydro electric projects in favour of the National Hydro Power Corporation Ltd and diversion of 496.793 ha of forest land for Kotlibhel Hydro electric projects in favour of the National Hydro Power Corporation Ltd. The FAC will review these projects on the basis of recommendation made by CEC. The FAC will review its earlier order and take a fresh decision and decision may be taken at the earliest at least within a period of five months.
Adjourned by six weeks.”
CEC recommendations are as follows:--
“In the above background, the CEC of the view that it would be prudent that the reconstituted FAC reviews these projects after considering the findings of the studies regarding
cumulative environmental impact of various hydro electric projects particularly on the riverine eco system and land and aquatic biodiversity; and
effectiveness of the mitigative measures and compliance of the stipulated conditions on which various projects have earlier been cleared.”
We request you:-
To repeal the environment clearance of Loharinaga-Pala project on Bhagirathi River, Uttarakhand while ensuring that the employment of local population is protected.
Construction work of Pala-Maneri HEP, Kotli-Bhel-1 A, B & 2 should not start till the report of the comprehensive study comes out and the recommendations are implemented.
The terms and conditions of conducting the “Comprehensive Study” of all rivers should be made public.
Peoples’ organisation, independent environmentalist and social activist should be the part of the process.
Attached: Recent 4 pictures of Loharinag-Pala Dam where construction work is still continuing.