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Dam under-construction at vishnugad-pipalkoti: photo by bharat Jhunjhunwala

 

Experts Says “ To Save Ganga Grow Forests Along Its Banks”

 

The Ganga is born in the forests of Uttarakhand. Trees enable the rain water to percolate into the ground along the roots of the trees. This water is released by the ground into the river through springs. Trees help in reducing soil erosion. Therefore to save Ganga we have to save the forests also.

A dam is being made across river Alaknanda in Chamoli District as a part of Vishnugad-Pipalkoti Hydropower Project (VPHP). Hectares of forests will be submerged in the reservoir behind the barrage.

 The Forest Conservation Act allows the Government to divert forests for non-forest uses such as hydropower subject to the environmental impact of the river being mitigated; and the benefits of the project being more than the costs.

We filed a case before the National Green Tribunal seeking, among others, that the VPHP should be required to release 50% water as environmental flows. We also said that the costs of the VPHP were more than the benefits. Therefore, the Forest Clearance should be quashed.

The Ministry Of Environment and Forest(MOEF) presented two reports made by Alternate Hydro Energy Centre, Roorkee and Wild Life Institute, Dehradun on e-flows before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) presented a report regarding the issue. The NGT ordered to ministry of environment and Forest to make a Committee to integrate the two reports and determine e-flows after such integration as report shown here. {Page 5, Para 1} But the Ministry has failed to decide the e-flows till now. In the result the project is being made without any safeguards regarding e-flows.

The Forest conservation act 1980 states that cost and benefits from the project must be filed for obtaining Forrest clearance. The underlying reason is only that forests must be diverted only if the benefits are huge and costs are less. It is necessary that a true cost benefit analysis is done before allowing diversion of forest lands.

The NGT admitted that Cost Benefit Analysis was not considered in giving the Forest Clearance {refer Para}. But instead of quashing the Forest Clearance, the NGT only asked the MOEF to set up a Committee to frame the norms for undertaking Cost Benefit Analysis in attached report {Page 10, Para 3}. The MOEF has not done this yet.

River polluted by stone crusher at vishnugad-pipalkoti (photo by Dr.jhunjhunwala)

In the result the project is being made without safeguards of e-flows and without assessment of costs and benefits.

We request to Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi to put an immediate stop to the Vishnugad-pipalkoti Hydropower Project and save the Ganga.


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