A government committee has found that the Narmada project in western India does not meet the conditions required for it to get an environment clearance, 23 years after the project was given a go-ahead.
The Centre has agreed to give Rs 6,770 crore under the accelerated irrigation benefit programme for expansion of the project with two major dams: Sardar Sarovar and Indira Sagar.
The committee, headed by Devendra Pandey, director, Forest Survey of India, constituted in 2008, has found several violations in the environmental clearance given to the project in 1987.
In a 150-page interim report submitted to the environment and forest ministry, the committee had said that the project proponents — state governments of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra — have failed to meet the conditions of environment approval.
“There is varying degree of violation on all the environment approval conditions,” said Shekhar Singh, a committee member. “We have clearly found that environment clearance norms have not been met.”
The committee has evaluated the project on the basis of catchment area treatment, compensatory afforestation and down-stream impacts, command area development, archaeology, health impacts, and seismicity.
The panel also told the ministry not to permit further raising of the dam height even by constructing piers and bridges.
“The recommendation for raising the Sardar Sarovar dam height up to 121.92 m by the environment sub group on 6th January, 2006 was despite the fact that full compliance with the stipulated environmental conditions was admittedly not there. It is evident from the minutes of the said meeting that the group recommended raising of height with the assurance that the pending work would be completed. However, there is no evidence or verification report to indicate compliance,” the report said.
The report submitted to environment ministry this week would be discussed at a meeting of Narmada Control Authority on February 22. “We are yet to take view on the report,” said a ministry official.