Prime minister Manmohan Singh will have to act as a referee to decide on the fate of Renuka Dam in Himachal Pradesh. The proposed dam is expected to be a vital source to fulfil Delhi's water needs in future.
Environment minister Jairam Ramesh had refused forest clearance to the dam in October 2010, on the ground that cutting 1.77 lakh trees for Delhi, where 40% water is lost in distribution, is not a good idea.
His recent small concession — allowing the dam if Delhi government agrees to reduce its water distribution losses substantially — to help the parched Capital get more water has not gone down well with the state government. "The two issues are not related," said a senior Delhi government official and added that improving distribution network is an ongoing exercise.
"Water from Renuka Dam is required to meet the demand in the next five years when Delhi's population will cross 200 million."
Ramesh has insisted that he could not authorise cutting down of 1.7 lakh trees in Himachal Pradesh till the Capital learns to value its water. "I can consider Renuka Dam only if the Delhi Jal Board substantially reduces its transmission losses," the minister told HT.
In October 2010, Ramesh had overruled the decision of the statutory body, Forest Advisory Committee, to allow the dam, which was meant to provide 270 million gallons of water every day — almost one-third of the city's present water demand.
Since then Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit and her Himachal counterpart Prem Kumar Dhumal had urged Ramesh to review his decision.
When Ramesh refused to budge even when Planning Commission's deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia made a case on behalf of Delhi, the PMO decided to intervene. Ahluwalia wrote to Ramesh this week arguing that Renuka Dam was necessary for Delhi's future as existing water supply of 850 MDG will not be enough to meet the demand in the next few years. "Renuka is not a solution for Delhi," Ramesh wrote back to Ahluwalia while proposing his new condition.
With both Delhi and Himachal keen on the project, prime minister Manmohan Singh is expected to call a meeting in June of all stakeholders to find a solution.
Earlier, the PMO had to push Ramesh to clear Maheshwar Dam project in Madhya Pradesh and Posco Steel Plant in Orissa.
The Renuka Dam issue has stirred a debate over balance between ecology and development, as 1.77 lakh trees, enough to cover one-third of Delhi, will come under the axe to construct the dam.