The government has decided to declare the natural course of the Ganga in 135 km stretch from Gaumukh to Uttarkashi in Uttarakhand as India’s first “eco-sensitive” zone on a major river.
This means that part of the river cannot be disturbed for any projects.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday approved a proposal of scrapping three big hydel projects — Loharinag Pala, Bhairon Ghati and Pala- Maneri — and providing 2,000 MW of free power to Uttarakhand as compensation for the same.
“No development projects except those in local villages will be allowed,” said a government functionary who participated at the meeting of National Ganga Basin River Authority chaired by Singh.
The meeting ratified the decision of Group of Ministers to scrap big hydel projects worth R5,000 crore on most pristine stretch of Ganga.
The decision is a direct fallout of Environment minister Jairam Ramesh’s assurance to religious gurus, including senior BJP leaders, who had been protesting in Dehradun, and environment experts that river Ganga will be allowed to run its natural flow in the 135-km stretch. The minister had support of non-official members of the authority, who had been advocating that no dams — small or big — be allowed on the river.
For the same, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal sought a compensation of 2,000 MW of power and cost for setting up of sewage treatment plants (STPs) on the banks of river Ganga.
The PM reportedly agreed to give 2,000 MW of power from the Central government’s
pool to Uttarakhand but not for free STPs. However, the NGBRA will help the state in setting up STPs, if the proposals are submitted, an official said.
The PM was also apprised of various steps taken reduce pollution levels in river Ganga in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. The Central Pollution Control Board had issued notices to over 100 polluting industries in UP alone.