The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has refused to entertain a plea seeking the release of adequate water from the Sardar Sarovar dam to the downstream areas of the Narmada river, noting that there was already a tribunal to adjudicate the matter.
A bench headed by Justice Raghuvendra S Rathore said two bodies -- the Water Dispute Tribunal and the Narmada Control Authority -- were already constituted to look into the issues related to the river.
"Therefore, it would be appropriate that the present matter be also placed before the Narmada Tribunal so as to consider all aspects of the grievance raised by the applicant. The applicant would be free to represent his case before the tribunal," the bench, also comprising expert member Satyawan Singh Garbyal, said.
The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by the Narmada Pradushan Nivaran Samiti and the Bharuch Citizen Council, seeking directions to make an urgent provision for the release of 1,500 cusecs of water from the Sardar Sarovar dam to the downstream areas of the river on a daily basis.
The plea claimed that the drying up of the river bed was causing an immense damage to the environment, agriculture and the local industries.
The petitioners claimed that the river was reduced to a small stream as only 600 cusecs of water were being released from the dam.
The plea, filed through advocate Shilpa Chohan, also sought an independent assessment by an expert committee of the flow required in the river in different seasons.
The petition referred to a letter written by the Narmada and Water Resources, Water Supply and Kalpsar department, which had said the water released for the downstream areas of the river was not sufficient and an immediate intervention was needed.
"Consistent negligence to ensure minimum downstream flow from the Sardar Sarovar dam led to permanent and detrimental changes in the downstream hydro-ecology, leading to habitat destruction, increased soil salinity in the agricultural lands, groundwater contamination and changes in the overall environment and was manifested in its worst form during the summer of 2016....
"Due to unavailability of surface water, water intensive and heavily polluting industries along the Narmada Estuary withdrew large quantities of water from bore wells, aggravating the water crisis in the region and accelerating the rate of toxic sea water intrusion into the aquifers of the downstream area," the plea claimed.
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