The long-pending Renuka dam project in Himachal Pradesh that will bring 275 million gallons of water a day to the Capital, one-fourth of the city’s supply, moved a step closer to realisation with the approval of an environment ministry committee.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to make a formal announcement in his Independence Day speech, boosting the BJP’s chances in the next Delhi assembly elections.
The dam will come up 315 km north of Delhi in a fragile but biodiversity-rich ecosystem of Sirmaur. The forest advisory committee (FAC), mandated to allow diversion of forestland, has approved the plan and environment minister Prakash Javadekar is expected to give his consent in the next few days.
As the Delhi government will pay the entire cost of the project, the Capital will get all the water supplied from the dam. According to a Delhi Jal Board (DJB) report, in 2012 the city’s demand for water was 1,150 million gallons per day, but supply stood at only 850 million gallons.
Himachal Pradesh, too, will benefit, with 60 mega watts of power generated from the dam coming its way. However, the project will lead to the submergence of about 141,000 trees in the area, which is prone to soil erosion.
The Rs. 4,000-crore project on the Giri river, a tributary of the Yamuna, failed to take off for 15 years when the Congress, led by chief minister Sheila Dikshit, was in power in Delhi.
In 2010, the FAC sanctioned the project, but then environment minister Jairam Ramesh disallowed it. He said that the ecological and social loss caused by the dam would far outweigh the benefits it would bring to Delhi. He later said that he would consider the project only if the
Delhi Jal Board considerably trimmed its transmission losses of about 40%.
Since then, the DJB has failed to significantly reduce wastage.
The Himachal government is keen on the project despite the environmental risks as it says it will enhance the state’s irrigation potential and create jobs for locals. Environmentalists, however, say the Giri river, the main source of drinking water for the region, will cease to exist downstream once the dam is built.