After the June 2013 floods in Uttarakhand that killed nearly 6,000 people, the apex court took suo motu cognizance of the matter and ordered the formation of a committee, which in an April 2014 report recommended that at least 23 hydropower projects be scrapped to save the ecologically fragile region. Photo: AP
After the June 2013 floods in Uttarakhand that killed nearly 6,000 people, the apex court took suo motu cognizance of the matter and ordered the formation of a committee, which in an April 2014 report recommended that at least 23 hydropower projects be scrapped to save the ecologically fragile region. Photo: AP

Panel formed to assess impact of hydropower projects in Uttarakhand

Panel to assess cumulative impact of hydroelectric projects on upper reaches of the Ganga river in Uttarakhand

New Delhi: The environment ministry has formed an 11-member committee to assess the cumulative impact of hydroelectric projects on the upper reaches of the Ganga river in Uttarakhand—the result of an ongoing case in the Supreme Court.

After the June 2013 floods in Uttarakhand that killed nearly 6,000 people, the apex court took suo motu cognizance of the matter and ordered the formation of a committee, which in an April 2014 report recommended that at least 23 hydropower projects be scrapped to save the ecologically fragile region.

In December 2014, the environment ministry filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court where it admitted that hydropower projects in Uttarakhand had directly or indirectly aggravated the impact of the floods.

It said that irreversible damage had been caused by the hydroelectric projects to environment, increasing the chances of landslides and other natural disasters.

The court asked the centre in May to clarify its stand on the stalled power projects in Uttarakhand.

The government then proposed forming a committee that would give its view on what to do about hydropower projects in Alaknanda-Bhagirathi basin in Uttarakhand in six months.

The 11-member committee now formed by the environment ministry, as per a 3 June order, has been asked to study the carrying capacity of the Ganga in its upper reaches in Uttarakhand and to assess cumulative impact of the hydropower projects.

The panel includes hydrology expert B.P. Das, non-government representative Prem Barakoti, a technical expert each from the Central Electricity Authority and the Central Water Commission, a representative of the Uttarakhand government, a tunnelling expert from the National Institute of Rock Mechanics, a biodiversity expert from Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education, seismology expert S.S. Rai, social scientist Unmesh Patnaik, glaciology expert A.V. Kulkarni and the ministry’s joint secretary Bishwanath Sinha as its convenor.

Environmental activists, however, alleged the step is in violation of the court’s order and was strongly criticized by senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who is one of the intervenors in the case in the apex court.

Bhushan and other experts, including environmental activist Himanshu Thakkar, in their letter to environment minister Prakash Javadekar said the environment ministry in its own affidavit on 11 May to the court had submitted that the proposed study would be carried out by an already constituted expert body, which will also include a seismologist, social scientist, climatologist and glaciologist.

“The formulation of this 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," said the letter.

“It is hence clear Mr.Javadekar, 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," the activists alleged.

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