With cloud burst creating havoc in Uttarakhand, the environment ministry has decided not to consider new hydel projects and review the existing projects ones on river Ganga and its tributaries in the state.
There has been a view that construction of dams for hydel projects on tributaries of river Ganga such Asi Ganga has resulted in blocking the flow of water thereby creating havoc for locals and property. Around 12 people died and about 50 went missing after the cloud burst in higher reaches of the state.
Environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan told HT it was difficult to “envisage any new hydel project on river Ganga and its tributaries” considering increasing concern over its flow.
On the projects under implementation, the ministry will take a view after a cumulative environment impact assessment of around 77 projects on river Ganga and its tributaries is done. “We have to do a proper appreciation of environmental aspects to restore flow and purity of the national river,” the minister.
The government has already constituted a committee of experts under planning commission member B K Chaturvedi to examine impact of hydel projects on river Ganga and recommend remedial measures based on report of a consortium of Indian Institutes of Technology. The committee has met once and deliberated on the key aspects of Ganga for future deliberations.
“I don’t want to pre-judge work of that committee,” she said, “my person view as Environment Minister is that there cannot be more hydel projects on river Ganga”.
The flash floods has come as a blessing in disguise to those opposing hydel projects on river Ganga and has put the government on the back-foot. The government scientific experts attributed environmental degradation including cutting of forests in Uttarakhand hills as a prime reason for cloud burst having such an impact.
The view of locals that slow pace of rehabilitation and restoration work at National Thermal Power Corporation’s Lohari Nag Pala dam --- scrapped by Central government in 2010 --- contributed to the devastation in certain regions has been backed by the ministry.
The Central government has provided Rs 200 crore to NTPC to restore the Lohari Nag Pala sites to its original but the work has been going at a slow pace. “I will be writing to Power Minister (Veerappa Moilly) on the issue of the restoration work,” Natarajan said.