The National Green Tribunal today sought the response of the Centre and all states on a plea seeking to maintain a minimum of 15 per cent river flow downstream by hydroelectric projects across the country.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Swatanter Kumar issued notice to Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and pollution control boards of all states seeking their response by December 14.
The bench issued notices on the plea filed by petitoner- counsel Pushp Jain contending that the flow of water in rivers needed to be maintained by hydroelectric projects across the country to ensure that the river ecosystem remains balanced.
“The most recent example of the imbalances created by such hydro-power projects and their long term environmental impacts were seen in the Uttrakhand tragedy in 2013 and thereafter.
“During the lean season the flow in the river decreases, which causes problems like scarcity of drinking water, lack of water for agriculture. Due to lack of water, there is unnatural death of water bodies as they aren’t able to survive,” the plea said.
It sought that states be directed to exercise power under the Environment Protection Act to release and maintain a minimum flow of not less than 15 per cent in the river downstream of the hydroelectric projects throughout the year.
The counsel contended that Himachal Pradesh government had through a 2005 notification directed that all hydel projects will have to release and maintain a minimum flow of water in the river downstream in lean seasons and submit regular reports. So other states should also do the same.
It also sought that states and the Centre take immediate action to control the pollution in water bodies through hydroelectric projects.
The plea also cited a CAG audit report of a hydro project in Uttarakhand, saying it suggested that in order to maintain and sustain aquatic ecosystem in the downstream stretch of a river, sufficient amount of discharge during the lean period has to be ensured.
“However, audit analysis revealed that the policy on hydro-power projects is silent on this vital issue. Further, there is no clear direction from the Uttarakhand Environment Protection and Pollution Control Board (UEPPCB) in matter of downstream,” it said.
A glaring example of river ecosystem imbalance is a recent report about receding water level in Maithon Dam near Dhanbad which may cause power crisis in the coming months in Jharkhand, Delhi, Kolkata and Kerala. Maithon Power Limited has warned of a breakdown in power generation due to depleting water level in several states.
( Source – PTI )