Let the Ganga flow unhindered for a “pristine future”, experts have told the government, calling for a 200-km hydel project-free river stretch.
Receding Himalayan glaciers and Tehri Dam, built over Ganga’s main tributary Bhagirathi, have been cited as the reasons why existing projects should be decommissioned and new ones banned between Gaumukh and Haridwar in Uttarakhand.
Gaumukh is at the edge of Gangotri Glacier — from where Ganga orginates — and is the source of Bhagirathi. The Ganga enters the plains at Haridwar.
Three independent experts of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGBRA) have urged the government to clean the river of hydel projects.
They were part of a six-member government committee set up the authority to review compliance of environment clearance for a 600 MW hydel plant in Loharinag-Pala.
The Tehri Dam, said to be the world’s fifth tallest, was killing the river, the panel has said.
“Visual observations of the state of the river from the Tehri Dam reservoir to Harsil made it clear that Tehri Dam and the Maneri-Bhali-I and II barrages have destroyed the free flowing character of Bhagirathi,” say the experts in a report submitted to environment ministry in March.
In winters, Ganga’s flow is much depleted, meaning hydel projects can’t generate electricity to their capacity. Less water has also affected generation at Tehri Dam as well, the report says.
With Himalayan glaciers receding, the situation can turn worse, warns panel. The government should assess the ecological impact of the receding glaciers on the Ganga.
In view of these changes, experts say, the government needs a policy to de-commission projects.
A ministerial group, led by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, has already decided not to go ahead with two projects at Bhairon Ghati and Pala Maneri in the hill state. A panel will examine the impact of existing structures built for at Loharinag-Pala project.