The environment ministry is set to review the future of 60 hydel projects in the Ganga basin following a study done by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Roorkee.
The move is significant considering the BJP played up the protection of the river Ganga before Uttarakhand assembly elections next year and Uma Bharati, who returned to BJP last week, successfully forcing the ministry to stop construction of the Srinagar project to save a temple.
The present move is being seen as an attempt to crush the movement.
The ministry had last year asked IIT Roorkee, under the National Ganga River Basin Authority, to conduct water flow studies of over a 100 hydel projects coming up on rivers Bhagirathi and Alakananda -- two main tributaries of the Ganga in upper reaches -- to understand impact of these projects on local flaura and fauna.
It was the first study of its kind for any river basin in India.
The IIT has now submitted its exhaustive report to the ministry, asking the government to incorporate its recommendations into the environment clearances granted to over 60 projects in the area, having huge environmental and religious significance.
"The risk in many cases may not be obvious but could be latent," the report spreading over three volumes said, while highlighting the possible impact of quality and quantity of water in coming years.
It has suggested the minimum water flow to be maintained in the key rivers in the Ganga basin to sustain local flora and fauna. The flow suggested depends on local bio-diversity and expected increase in local population and it could mean end of road of many hydel projects in Uttarakhand.
Existing hydel projects have been studied for their impact on environment and proposed projects were examined for their possible impact. Hence, a cumulative impact for the Ganga river basin was extrapolated.
"The Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) will soon be asked to review all these hydel projects," said a senior environment ministry official. Some of these projects may get scrapped and scope of some others may be reduced.
The projects under consideration include big hydel projects such as the Srinagar project and Kotla-Bhel and many run of the river hydel projects proposed by the Uttarakhand government. However, ministry officials say the bigger impact will be on smaller projects.