No green clearance for Polavaram project-linked lift-schemes invites NGT red card
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Tuesday directed the Andhra Pradesh government to stall the existing lift irrigation schemes of Pattiseema and Purushottapatnam on Godavari river. The two lift projects are part of Polavaram major irrigation project cleared by the previous Telugu Desam Party government.
The principal bench of NGT headed by Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel also stopped another lift irrigation scheme at Chintalapudi on Godavari river while hearing a petition by former Congress minister Vatti Vasanth Kumar and 12 others.
It further directed the Andhra government not to proceed with the inter-linking of Godavari-Krishna-Penna river proposed during the TDP regime at a cost of Rs 84,000 crore
“The bench observed that none of these schemes had obtained necessary environmental and forest clearances. The government could go ahead with the projects only after obtaining necessary clearances,” senior advocate Sravan Kumar, arguing for the petitioner, told Hindustan Times.
The NGT bench’s order was based on a report filed by the Joint Inspection Committee (JIC) constituted by the tribunal on May 30 this year. The JIC comprising officials from Central Pollution Control Board, Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board and Ministry of Environment and Forest submitted its report on June 28.
The state government had argued that Pattiseema and Purushottapatnam lift irrigation schemes were not independent projects, but part of the Polavaram major irrigation project and would cease to exist once the Polavaram project was complete.
“Since it will take another four years for the completion of entire Polavaram project, the lift schemes were built to lift water from Godavari river on right and left sides into the already existing canal structures. Once Polavaram project is completed, the two lift schemes will not be used and the equipment could be used elsewhere,” the government argued.
Similarly, Chintalapudi lift irrigation scheme was meant for providing drinking water to 410 habitations, besides irrigating 1.94 lakh hectares of land in upland areas of West Godavari and Krishna districts. While forest clearance was obtained for part of the project, the application for clearances for the stage-II of the project was pending, the officials said.
The inspection committee, however, said the three lift schemes needed environmental clearances as they involved forest land acquisition and had other environmental implications.
With regard to Godavari-Krishna-Penna river interlinking project, the joint inspection committee observed that the project was yet to commence as no detailed project report was prepared. It recommended that the government cannot proceed with any construction activities including land acquisition without an environmental clearance and preparation of a detailed project report.
An official of the state irrigation department, who preferred anonymity, said the department was yet to receive the copy of the NGT order. “The government will take a call after obtaining the order copy,” he said.