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Wednesday, Nov 13, 2019

How can a ₹800-crore river project not need an environmental clearance? Goa shoots of letter to Centre

Goa CM Pramod Sawant has written to Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar after his ministry exempted Karnataka’s Mahadayi project from green clearance

india Updated: Oct 26, 2019 09:59 IST
Gerard de Souza
Gerard de Souza
Hindustan Times, Panaji
The Goa government has fought a 15-year long battle with Karnataka over the waters of River Mahadayi that originates in the Western Ghats in North Karnataka along the border with Karnataka and flows into Goa as the Mandovi (in pic).
The Goa government has fought a 15-year long battle with Karnataka over the waters of River Mahadayi that originates in the Western Ghats in North Karnataka along the border with Karnataka and flows into Goa as the Mandovi (in pic). (HT photo)
         

The decision of the Ministry of Environment and Forests to grant the government of Karnataka permission for a ₹800 crore river diversion project, while dispensing the need for an environmental clearance has left the Goa government bemused.

The Goa government has fought a 15-year long battle with Karnataka over the waters of River Mahadayi that originates in the Western Ghats in North Karnataka along the border with Karnataka and flows into Goa as the Mandovi.

Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has shot off a letter to Union Minister of Environment and Forests Prakash Javadekar questioning the basis of the MoEF’s conclusion that the project does not require an environmental clearance.

“Mahadayi river is the lifeline of Goa and the Mahadayi basin constitutes almost half of the territory of the state. There are five wildlife sanctuaries and one bird sanctuary within the Mahadayi basin. The Mahadayi basin area is ecologically fragile and a hotspot of biodiversity,” Sawant said in his letter.

“It seems vide their letter the MoEF has conveyed to the state of Karnataka that the Kalasa Banduri project being a drinking water project does not need environment clearance. It is not understood on what basis the ministry reached this conclusion, that the said project is purely a drinking water project,” Sawant said.

In a letter to the Chief Engineer of the Kalasa-Banduri drinking water project, the MoEF noted that the scheme for drinking water supply “doesn’t envisage creating new command area or providing water to suffering existing command areas for irrigation. Also the project doesn’t involve hydroelectric power generation.”

“The above proposal was deliberated in the ministry and noted that the instant project does not propose any hydroelectric power generation component nor any irrigation component and thus has no command area. It is noted that the instant project is purely a drinking water supply scheme and does not attract the provisions of the EIA notification 2006 and its subsequent amendments,” the letter states.

The MoEF’s decision has left environmentalists scratching their heads since the diversion scheme involves the construction of three dams, two canals to divert water and the diversion of 499.13 hectares of forest land including submergence of 406.60 hectares of forest land.

The massive project envisages the diversion of west flowing streams in the Mahadayi basin to the allegedly water deficit Malaprabha basin by construction of dams across the Haltara, Kalasa and Banduri streams. The project proposes to divert 7.56 TMC of water during monsoon season through Inter connecting gravity canals for crossing the ridges at the cost of ₹840.52 crore.

What puzzled the Goa government is that during the hearing of the dispute before the tribunal, Karnataka admitted that there indeed was an irrigation component to the project. “In light of the above, I request you to direct the Ministry of Environment and Forests to immediately withdraw the letter,” Sawant said in his letter.

“I also request you to direct the Ministry to not entertain any further request from Karnataka for any kind of clearance of a project in the Mahadayi basin, whether the Environment Clearance, forest clearance, wildlife clearance, etc, until the disputes are finally resolved by the apex court, the clarifications as sought are given by the Tribunal and the award is notified by the Union Government and made operative,” Sawant said.

In its verdict passed last year, the tribunal awarded Karnataka 3.45 TMC from their total claims of 7.56 TMC. According to the breakup, Karnataka has been allowed to divert 1.18 TMC from the Kalasa Nala and 2.27 TMC from the Banduri Nala from their claims of 3.56 and 4 TMC respectively. The award is yet to be notified by the central government and all states -- Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa -- have challenged various portions of the award before the Supreme Court.