Look who is invoking Akbar to oppose Ganga dam projects
NEW DELHI: The ministries of environment and water resources are at loggerheads over giving clearance to new hydel power projects on the Ganga with the latter saying dams would destroy the river that can “fight so many diseases” that even Mughal emperor Akbar drank water from it.
“The Mughals also accepted this special quality of the Ganga and Emperor Akbar reportedly used to drink either pure Ganga water or water mixed with Ganga water,” said a 25-page affidavit filed in the Supreme Court last month by the Uma Bharti-led water ministry.
After the massive Uttarakhand floods, the apex court in 2013 set up a committee to study the impact of hydel power projects on the Ganga and the committee called for scrapping 23 dam projects. The water ministry is of the view that hydroelectricity has been given priority because it’s cheaper but the way the dam projects have been planned raises a big question regarding the river’s carrying capacity. “The existing dams and river water diversions have caused significant damage to the river’s length and have depleted and deprived the river of its original content thereby compromising the quality of the water downstream,” it said. “Most of the upper catchment of the Ganga falls under seismic zone four. Increased pressure of anthropogenic activities in this area has rendered the area vulnerable and exposed to incidents like the Uttarakhand flash floods.” The ministry said no hydrological study had been mandated in the ecological impact assessment of these dam projects. Calling for ensuring uninterrupted water flow in the river basin, the ministry said that water flow in three tributaries should not be affected, or else it would negate all efforts made by the government to clean the river at a cost of `20,000 crore.
“The tributaries Alaknanda, Bhagirathi, Mandakini, and the Ganga from Devprayag onwards till Ganga Sagar, should remain in their current condition without any disruption or diversion to improve the water quality and restore its unique healing and self-purifying properties that are required for rejuvenation of this holy and the national river,” the ministry added.