June 19, 2013 | 08:38 AM (BD Time)
19 June, 2013 Wednesday
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Orissa opposes river linking in India
From Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance :
New Delhi: The government of the Indian state of Orissa will contest the findings of the Justice (Retd) Gopalkrishna Committee on the Polavaram irrigation project, proposed to be constructed on river Godavari in Andhra Pradesh, in the Supreme Court.
The decision to contest the Gopalkrishna committee findings was taken at a high level meeting chaired by Chief Secretary B K Patnaik, Government of Orissa . Official sources said the government would contest the Committee report, as it had not correctly assessed various aspects of the proposed project, says a message received in Dhaka.
The committee was constituted by the apex court to make an assessment and submit a report. The proposed project had violated the Godavari Water Dispute Tribunal order.
The height of the dam was also raised many times more than prescribed by the tribunal. The project, sources here said, would submerge a vast area of tribal dominated Malkangiri district in Orissa.
The state government had been opposing the project right from the beginning and even moved the apex court after the Union government accorded interim approval to the project in 2008.
The Orissa government's contention was that the Ministry of Environment and Forest had granted clearance to the project, even though the Andhra Prdesh government failed to conduct the mandatory public hearing before constructing the 45 feet high embankments.
The clearance was granted despite the fact that the dispute over the construction of the project was pending adjudication of the Supreme Court. The state government had urged the Union government to withdraw the forest clearance given to the project.
The project envisaged to construct a dam on the river Godavari on the Orissa-Andhra Pradesh border and diverting huge quantity of water through a 174-km link canal to Krishna river.
The Indian Supreme Court heard the Networking of Rivers Case (Writ Petition Civil 512 of 2002) on October 17, 2011 which entails diversion of rivers for linking them in both Himalayan and peninsular India. Environmental groups in India in particular and South Asia in general are opposed to such projects because it will lead to Aral Sea like ecological disaster and will endanger the life of rivers for good. Diversion of two Siberian rivers led to drying up of Aral Sea.
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) has welcomed the precautionary approach adopted by the three-judge bench of Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia, Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan and Justice Swatanter Kumar by seeking to know its financial viability and possible displacement due to land acquisition for the mega project. Environmental groups have contended for long that diverting rivers for linking inevitably involves acquisition of both land and water. The court posted the matter for further hearing in January 2012.
Earlier, Supreme Court had suggested that this project should be completed by the year 2016. Since then Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has opposed the project and Kerela, Punjab and West Bengal have rejected this project.
It is noteworthy that National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) did a study on Economic Impact of Interlinking of Rivers Programmein April 2008. The Foreword to the study admits, Economic impact of certain benefits such as mitigation of drought and floods to a certain extent, increased revenue/income from fishing, picnic site and amusement park are not taken into consideration. If one looks at NCAER itself observes saying interlinking of rivers programme (ILR) programme is aimed at linking different surplus rivers of country with the deficient rivers so that the excess water from surplus region could be diverted to deficient region, it is clear drought, flood and livelihood from activating like fishing has not been considered. This is the outcome of the study was meant to assess the macro impact of the ILR programme on Indian economy both at short- as well as long-term.
This is the study on the basis of which Ministry of Water Resources claims that the ILR project is viable has revealed that drought and flood is a non-issue as far as economic impact of ILR is concerned. The fact is that the interlocutory application that was filed in the Maili Yamuna case in the Supreme Court was turned into a Public Interest Litigation by the then Chief Justice B N Kripal on the premise that the ILR project would lead to drought proofing and flood proofing of the country. The Courts order for ILR project was based on the assumption that there is consensus among the states for this project. Subsequently, it has been found that both these premises do not exist.
The NCAER study observes that the cost of the overall ILR programme was estimated by the task force/NWDA as Rs 5,60,000 crore at 2002-03 prices.
This estimate suffers from two infirmities. First, the cost of 30 links has been taken, whereas there are only 29 links. Jogigopa Tista Farakka (JTF) is an alternative link to Manas Sankosh Tista Ganga (MSTG) and only one of these two links will be constructed.
It is noteworthy that in the meeting of Governments Experts Committee on Interlinking of Rivers that since, Manas and Brahmaputra rivers were discussed. It was contended that they are international in nature, planning of water resources of the region need lot of care with respect to international dimensions. It has also been contended that there are problems presently in sharing of Ganga waters and this type of problem may also arise in Brahmaputra and Manas regions in additions to the environmental and ecological issues attached to the regions. Therefore, it is better to give up the MSTG link under ILR.
The study considers two alternatives of cost estimates taking into account alternative links (MSTG or JTF). The new aggregated
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