VIJAYAWADA: In a major setback to Telangana, the Southern Zone Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has restrained the neighbouring State from going ahead with the Palamuru Rangareddy Lift Irrigation Scheme (PRLIS) without obtaining environmental clearance (EC) from the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change by issuing an interim order of injunction.
Rejecting TS argument that the PRLIS was only a drinking water component now, the tribunal noted that there will be “irreparable and irreversible injury” to the environment if the project is not stopped until the EC is obtained. The tribunal pronounced the order to this effect on Friday with respect to a petition filed by Kadapa farmer D Chandramouleswara Reddy and others against the lift irrigation scheme alleging that Telangana had violated environmental norms by going ahead with the project execution sans requisite clearances.
“We are satisfied that there is a prima facie case and balance of convenience in favour of the applicant and if the relief is not granted, there will be irreparable and irreversible injury caused to the environment and as such, in order to protect the environment, the fifth respondent (Telangana government) has to be restrained by an interim order of injunction from proceeding with the project without completing the process of obtaining environmental clearance as required under the Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006,” judicial member Justice K Ramakrishnan and expert member K Satyagopal said in their order.
The tribunal rejected TS’ objection of maintainability on the question of limitation and stated that the objection was not sustainable. It may be recalled that the Andhra Pradesh government was also a respondent in the petition. In another petition against the PRLIS filed by a Telangana resident, AP impleaded and argued that the project was being executed in violation of environmental norms.
TS has repeatedly submitted to the tribunal that it was only constructing a drinking water component and hence does not need environmental clearance.
However, the tribunal, agreeing that the State has the responsibility to supply water, added, “It (providing drinking water) will not outweigh the overlooking of environmental laws when an integrated project of drinking water as well as irrigation is contemplated.” The tribunal’s order also stated that the joint committee it appointed to ascertain if there were environmental violations, submitted a report confirming that irrigation component works were also being taken up. “The joint committee report prima facie satisfies the tribunal that there is a prima facie violation of environmental laws, which requires interference of this tribunal,” it observed in the order.
“If the present project, as such accepting the contention of the fifth respondent as drinking water alone, is allowed to proceed with the project for construction of reservoirs having a capacity of 90 TMC, then what is to be left out for irrigation purpose is only drawing of canals for supply and nothing more... Moreover, work is being carried out for installation of pumps with a capacity to pump 90 TMC plus 30 TMC of water totalling 120 TMC as reported by the joint committee. So, greater damage will be caused unless this integrated project is considered together and impact assessment is done before proceeding with the project,” the NGT said.
TS argument rejected by green tribunal
The NGT Southern Zone Bench rejected TS argument that PRLIS was a drinking water component
There will be “irreparable injury” to the environment if the project is not stopped, noted the tribunal
NGT posted the matter to Nov 24 to file objections by respondents