2 yrs on, Ganga hydel plans still stuck in talks
Nitin Sethi, TNN, Jul 9, 2010, 08.47am IST
Even after a technical committee of the government put in a report stating that the 600MW Loharinag Pala dam can be shut down, the government has been unable to take a call on the hydel project on Bhagirathi river in Uttarakhand. The last meeting chaired by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and attended by power minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and environment minister Jairam Ramesh ended up inconclusive, with Shinde refusing to budge from his stand that shutting down the project would entail a high cost.
Loharinag Pala is the third big dam on the tributary to Ganga, alongside the 381MW Bhaironghati and 480MW Pala Maneri hydroelectric projects.
The fate of the dams has been hanging fire for more than two years now. In July 2008, a high-level expert group was constituted to examine the technical issues involved in ensuring perennial environmental flow in the river.
Meanwhile, the Uttarakhand high court, responding to a petition, asked the newly formed National Ganga River Basin Authority, chaired by the prime minister, to address the issue. The NGBRA set up a committee headed by the power and environment secretary to report on the subject which by then was becoming a bone of contention between the two ministries.
The committee noted that a series of big dams was being planned on the river, almost back to back. They suggested a cumulative impact study be undertaken while work on the ongoing Loharinag Pala continued as investments had been ploughed in it. Then, the ministry of environment and forests constituted a committee to review the impacts of the ongoing work on the project and found it deficient on several counts.
With the matter getting entrenched, the prime minister asked the finance minister to settle the dispute between the two ministers. In their first meeting, it was decided that the Bhaironghati and Pala Maneri projects would be shut down while the technical feasibility of shutting down the third would be reviewed. A committee of technical experts was set up for the purpose.
"Leaving the project incomplete may aggravate the risk of landslides in certain stretches and may increase the likely damage to the surroundings," the committee recommended. But it also concluded that the risks could be "mitigated through suitable measures".
But when the three ministers met again recently, the matter remained unresolved yet again. The finance minister has decided to hold one final round after discussing the issue with the PM.
Link - http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/H...ow/6145712.cms