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Supreme Court to hear Ganga dams issue today

Earlier, the environment ministry had taken the view that no new dams should be built on tributaries of Ganga in the hill state


Nitin Sethi  |  New Delhi 

Gujarat water crisis: Dams and reservoirs go dry as state races against time
For representation

The Union power ministry has agreed with the environment ministry’s approach before the Supreme Court on building dams in Uttarakhand based on a 100-year-old pact. But, the water resources ministry, which had objected to the move, is yet to file a response to the call from the apex court to also explain its position.

Earlier, the environment ministry had taken the view that no new dams should be built on tributaries of the Ganga in the hill state without a comprehensive and cumulative impact assessment of the bumper-to-bumper dams. It had also said the state’s dams had contributed to the 2013 disaster, when the Kedarnath valley got flooded, killing hundreds and impacting thousands.

But, it made a U-turn before the apex court, basing itself on a 1916 pact signed by some kings of that era, social activists such as Madan Mohan Malviya and others claiming to represent the Hindu community with the British on how much water should flow in the river specifically at Haridwar to keep the river pure. The environment ministry used that to say as a policy it was willing to allow the same level of water — 1,000 cusecs flow — as a minimum in the upper reaches of the Ganga tributaries as well. With this it said it was agreeable to more dams being built.

Uma Bharati, the Union water resources minister, wrote to Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar against this move. “I request you not to file the aforesaid affidavit and take prayer to the Hon’ble Court for extension of time so as to enable the aforesaid inter-ministerial committee to give its report, which can form the basis of considered policy decision of the government in the issue of six hydroelectric projects.” She said the environment ministry affidavit was self-contradictory. And not according to “the common understanding reached between us”.

Her letter, reported in the media, was also submitted to the apex court by the petitioners in the case. The court, in view of the conflicting stances of the government, asked the power and water resources ministries to also share their responses. The power ministry has now concurred entirely with the environment ministry in its latest affidavit before the apex court. “It is submitted that the respondent herein adopts the stance taken by the ministry of environment, forests and climate change in its affidavits dated 06.01.2016 and 14.01.2016,” the power ministry’s affidavit reads.

The two environment ministry affidavits it refers to are the ones where Javadekar’s ministry said it would go by its reading of the 100-year-old pact to clear dams in Uttarakhand that Bharti objected to. The hearing is slated for Tuesday.

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First Published: Tue, May 10 2016. 00:13 IST