Activists call for disbanding the inter ministerial group on issues related to river Ganga

A group of activists have urged that the Inter Ministerial Group on issues related to river Ganga be disbanded

This is on the ground that its formation itself was an attempt to further delay the action National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) was expected to make. The composition of the Committee has been criticized, as also its constitution and the Terms of Reference. These have not been developed through transparent or participatory processes nor have these or the agenda of the meetings been put in public domain. The Inter Ministerial Group has been asked to suggest environment flow requirements considering reports, including the IIT Roorkee report, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had commissioned.

The report is completely discredited for being unscientific, biased and shoddy, the activists say. Also, asking this Committee, largely constituted of government officials to sit on judgement over the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) report is clearly aimed at postponing action on some of the key recommendations of the report, like the one which says that the government should drop at least 24 of the large hydropower projects being considered on Ganga and its tributaries. This is clearly imprudent and unacceptable.

The activists have urged that the Committee be disbanded and steps be taken urgently in line with the Allahabad High Court directive which states that no project in the entire Ganga Basin should divert more than fifty per cent of the water available in the river at that point of time and place. A credible independent mechanism needs to be set up and a suitable amendment to the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification done.

Read the complete letter below -

To

Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, Chairperson, National Ganga River Basin Authority, NewDelhi, manmohan@sansad.nic.inpmh7rcr@pmo.nic.inpmosb@pmo.nic.in 

and 

Smt Jayanti Natrajan, Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests (IC), Member Secretary, NGRBA, New Delhi, jayanthi.n@sansad.nic.inmosefgoi@nic.in  

Subject: Disband Inter-ministerial Group on Issues related to Ganga

Respected Sir and Madam,

We understand, the above mentioned IMG has been set up by you through and OM (F No B-12014/4/12-NMCG/NGBRA) dated June 15, 2012. We believe this is highly inappropriate step and this IMG should be immediately disbanded for the following reasons:

  1. For all the tasks given to the IMG, the NGRBA should have taken decisive steps long back, but it has not taken any of them in about 3 and half years since NGBRA notification was issued. Now the formulation of this committee seems like an attempt to further delay the action that NGBRA was expected to take.
  2. The committee is largely constituted of government officials who are known to tow the government line, mostly anti people, anti environment and anti river line. The officials have performed such role in the past, helping government to get out of tight spots that environment laws of the land put the government in.
  3. The constitution or the TOR of the committee has not been formulated in any transparent, participatory process. There is no transparency in this whole affair either, the TOR of the committee or agenda of the meeting are not available on any website, either of MEF, of PMO, of Planning Commission or NGBRA.
  4. The IMG has been asked to suggest environment flow requirements considering reports, including the IIT Roorkee report the MEF had commissioned. However, the IIT Roorkee report is a completely discredited report. A large number of critiques have shown that the report is unscientific, biased and shoddy. It has been shown how unreliable it is on the issue of environment flows. Even the Expert Appraisal Committee of the MEF for the River Valley and Hydropower projects have criticised the report in its meeting dated June 2011 and the committee refuses to follow the report. The MEF needs to reject the IIT Roorkee report urgently as an unscientific, shoddy and biased piece of work. To now ask another committee to consider such discredited report for suggesting environment flows possibly shows the real intentions of the government not to take any action on this vital issue.
  5. Similarly to ask a committee constituted largely of government officials to sit on judgement over the WII report is also to postpone action on its recommendations. For example, the WII report had suggested that the 300 MW Alaknanda Badrinath hydropower project of GMR should be rejected, as did the FAC in two of its meetings. The MEF in fact overruled all of them and gave forest clearance to the project, showing its utter contempt for the WII report. This was completely unacceptable. Now by asking this committee, largely constituted of government officials to sit on judgement over the WII report is clearly aimed at postponing action on some of the key recommendations of the report, namely for example that the government should drop at least 24 of the large hydropower projects being considered on Ganga and its tributaries. This is clearly imprudent and unacceptable.

Under the circumstances, we urge you to urgently disband this committee and in stead take following urgent steps:

  1. Ask the operating hydropower, irrigation and water diversion projects in the basin to follow the orders of the Allahabad High Court directing that no project in the entire Ganga Basin should divert more than 50% of the water available in river at that point of time and place.
  2. Set us credible independent mechanism to see if the flow as directed by this order is adequate for various projects and seasons.
  3. Make suitable amendment in the EIA notification to the effect that all dams, hydropower and diversion projects will need an EIA, Public hearing and Environment clearance, except hydropower projects of capacity below 1 MW and when done by the communities themselves.
  4. Create credible compliance empowered mechanisms (none exist today) for each project in which at least 50% of members would be from local area to ensure compliance with the above and other environment norms.
  5. Urgently notify the 135 km of Bhagirathi river as eco sensitive zone.

These are the minimum steps that you can urgently take for the betterment of the river Ganga, which is the mandate of NGBRA and for which NGBRA is yet to take any step. We would look forward to your response on these points.

Thanking you for your attention,

Yours Sincerely,

Endorsed by:

1. Himanshu Thakkar, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People, 86-D, AD block, Shalimar Bagh, Delhi 110088. Ph: 27484655;   Email: ht.sandrp@gmail.comwww.sandrp.in

2. Vimal Bhai, Matu Jansangathan, Uttarakhand, bhaivimal@gmail.com

3. Onkar Mittal, Delhi, onkarmittal@yahoo.co.uk

Copy: Members of IMG - (bkchaturvedi@nic.injm.mauskar@nic.insunita@cseindia.orgrajendra@tarunbharatsangh.org, veerbhadramishra@swatchaganga.orgmmehrishi@yahoo.com (for herself and for Rajiv Sharma- Ganga Mission Director),ccb.cpcb@nic.in)

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