NEW DELHI: The ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has formed an 11 member committee to assess the cumulative impact of hydroelectric projects (HEPs) in upper reaches of River Ganga in Uttarakhand which had come under scrutiny after the June 2013 Uttarakhand floods.
MoEF has tasked the committee to assess cumulative impact assessment of hydro power projects and carry out a carrying capacity study of upper reaches of river Ganga. It has also been asked to focus on likely impacts caused by HEP structures in the region.
The committee includes hydrology expert BP Das, NGO representative Prem Barakoti, technical expert each from the Central Electricity Authority and the Central Water Commission, a representative from Uttarakhand government and tunneling expert (from National Institute of Rock Mechanics), biodiversity expert (from Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education), seismology expert SS Rai, social science expert Umesh Patnaik and glaciology expert AV Kulkarni. MoEFCC’s Joint secretary Bishwanath Sinha has been appointed as its convener.
The committee was a result of an ongoing case at SC regarding hydroelectric power projects in Uttarakhand. After June 2013 Uttarakhand floods, SC had taken suo motu cognizance of the issue and ordered formation of a committee which in its April 2014 report recommended dropping of at least 23 hydropower to save the ecologically fragile region.
Environment ministry in December 2014 had admitted before SC that hydropower projects in Uttarakhand had aggravated the impact of the 2013 floods. It had also admitted that irreversible damage was caused to environment by the hydro power projects.
Last month on May 12, SC asked the central government to clarify its stand in relation to several stalled power projects in Uttarakhand. At that time, the ministry proposed forming a committee which in six months time prepared a report about hydropower projects in the Alaknanda-Bhagirathi basin in Uttarakhand.
However, activists like senior SC advocate Prashant Bhushan – who is one of the intervenors in the case – are irked with the move.
In a letter to environment minister Prakash Javadekar, Bhushan said “formulation of this committee (the new committee) is clear violation of your own government's submission in court”.
“Not only is this a violation but also a clear indication of your ministry's malafide intentions to over write and compromise the findings of previous committees. It is hence clear Mr. Javdekar, that till such time you do not get a report that gives a green signal to these hydropower projects you will continue to form one committee after another regardless of the reality on ground,” alleged the letter by Bhushan and other experts like Himanshu Thakkar.