Centre may soon ban all construction on Ganga


New Delhi: All new construction activities may soon be banned on the banks of Ganga and all its tributaries to protect the ecology of the holy river and maintain its minimum environmental flow.

An in-principle decision towards this was taken at an Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) meeting that was held last month. The decision was taken after reviewing the report submitted by an Expert Body that gave clearance to hydroelectric power (HEP) projects that have been proposed to be built on Alaknanda and Bhagirathi river basins in Uttarakhand.

According to reports, a final decision will be taken after IMG-constituted five-member committee chaired by Water Resources Secretary Shashi Shekhar submits its comprehensive report on the issue. The committee is likely to examine all the aspects of the issue, ranging from environmental flow to longitudinal connectivity in the two rivers.

Shekhar has severely criticized the Experts Group report for giving clearances to five out of six HEP projects. The six proposed HEP projects are: NTPC’s Lata Tapavan, NHPC’s Kotlibhel IA, GMR’s Alaknanda, Super Hydro’s Khirao Ganga and Bhyunder Ganga, and THDC’s Jelam.

He has further conveyed to the IMG that the requirements of environmental flow and longitudinal connectivity proposed by the Experts Group are very inadequate and may leave the rivers without any water during non-monsoon seasons.

The IMG is comprised of Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar and Power Minister Piyush Goyal.

After the devastating floods in Uttarakhand in 2013, the Supreme Court had put a temporary halt on all new HEP projects, and had asked the government to examine the feasibility of the HEP’s and submit its recommendations.

The next hearing of the Supreme Court on the issue is scheduled for January 20. Shekhar has been given a month’s time to complete his recommendations so that the government can take a final decision and convey it to the Supreme Court on January 20.

(Photo: www.gangarights.org)