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HindustanTimes Sun,20 Apr 2014

MoEF panel to assess causes of flood, suggest measures

Chetan Chauhan , Hindustan Times  New Delhi, June 23, 2013
First Published: 17:32 IST(23/6/2013) | Last Updated: 01:15 IST(24/6/2013)

With over a thousand people dead in Uttarakhand and property worth crores lost, the environment ministry will set up a panel to gauge whether bad planning had a role to play in the devastation and will also try suggesting measures to minimise human loss.

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“All aspects from mining to construction of dams to encroachment of river-fronts will be examined by the high level panel,” a senior environment ministry functionary told Hindustan Times.

Also the panel will try to provide ways to implement environmental regulations with the possibility of declaring a no development zone in the upper reaches of Uttarakhand.

Till now, the state government led by chief minister Vijay Bahuguna had opposed imposition of any regulation in the upper reaches of Uttaranchal on grounds that it would hamper development for the locals.

Bahuguna had written a three-page letter to Manmohan Singh recently, seeking exemption of environment clearance to hydro projects generating up to two megawatts of power.

He told the PM that his government will not implement the eco-sensitive zone on the Bhagirathi river despite a Group of Ministers recommending it.

“There is rampant mining in river-beds, buildings have been allowed all across river fronts, there has been huge deforestation and above all hundreds of dams are coming  up in the fragile hills,” a ministry official, who had traveled extensively in Uttarakhand and also worked there, said.

The panel will also review all mining leases issued by the state government and the environment ministry in recent years.

Ministry sources said sand and stone mining leases in all major rivers of Uttarakhand had been issued in recent years without any impact studies.

The ministry’s decision to constitute a panel will also mean putting the BK Chaturvedi Committee report in abeyance for the time being.

The committee earlier this year had recommended that most of the hydel projects should be allowed but with reduced capacity to generate power.

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