Let our national river not be a national guilt

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On one hand tall claims are being made about Ganga rejuvenation & preservation by the government but on the other hand systematic destruction of what little is left of the Ganga is being carried out. Ganga is referred to as our cultural and civilizational identity in every political speech by our leaders but completely contrary to their submission, policies that are threatening the very existence of the river are being promoted and in doing so the truth is being subverted and reports/ facts are being suppressed.

Facts pertaining to the case:

1. A large number of hydropower projects (HEPs) are being built all over the state of Uttarakhand.

2. Experts have repeatedly warned against these HEPs because these valleys are extremely fragile, vulnerable to disasters & the origin of Ganga who is our national & civilizational identity.

3. The frequency and intensity of disasters since the last few years has only been increasing in the sate of Uttarakhand. In June 2013, there was an unprecedented disaster that claimed thousands of lives & livelihoods. The inhabitants of the valley live under a constant threat looming on their heads.

4. The Hon'ble Supreme Court of India took suo-moto cognizance of the disaster of 2013 & ordered a probe to investigate if the "mushrooming of hydropower projects" in the state of Uttarakhand had any role to play in escalating the disaster of 2013.The court stopped construction on all 24 that were recommended for cancellation by experts.

5. Subsequently a committee was formed to investigate into the matter. The gist of this report was submitted by MoEF (Ministry of Environment & Forests) in an affidavit dated 5.12.2014, wherein the MoEF said that "there has been a direct & an indirect role of these HEPs in escalating the disaster of 2013".

6. 6 hydropower projects proponents intervened in the case claiming "victimhood" of court's stop order and appealed to restart their projects citing the clearances that they had been given earlier.

7. The court directed the formation of another committee to submit a report on these 6 projects specifically. This committee submitted a report in Feb'2015 stating that these 6 projects should not be considered as they have potential of causing disaster. The committee also stated that the entire process of according clearances warrants review.

8. Completely contrary to the advise of the experts, the MoEF gives a green signal to these 6 projects. When the report leaked in the media, the MoEF declared the formation of another committee to review the findings of the previous one. Subsequently, a committee is formulated with members having conflict of interest and as was expected this committee gave a green signal to the projects suggesting some minor changes.

9. Thus a complete turn-around in the whole matter takes place where the issue of disaster prompted this whole investigation, the HEPs proved to have escalated the impact of the disaster & through complete subversion of truth by fradulent committee formations, the government has given a green signal to projects.

10. Despite on-ground evidences, facts & proofs and submissions from their own office, the government has turned the entire issue of undisputed sanctity and a matter of security of citizens of the country into a petty issue to be debated in court rooms where the government is not even taking the side of Ganga preservation. It was discovered that the directions for taking such a blatant stand in court came directly from Prime Minister's office and is evident through meeting minutes of a meeting held under the chairmanship of Principal Secretary - Nirpendra Mishra dated 13.01.2015 where directions to MoEF were given to state in court the critical need for hydropower generation in the state of Uttarakhand.

11. The Ministry of Water resources & Ganga Rejuvenation (MoWR) has in fact objected to the stand taken by MoEF in court and has independently submitted that if these HEPs are built on the upper stretches of the Ganga then Ganga rejuvenation will NOT be possible.

Immediate Next Steps:

In the light of the above evidences, it is absolutely pertinent that the government immediately takes the following steps:

- Cancel all clearances that it gave to these HEPs. Since the disaster, these clearances cannot be accepted as valid anymore.

- Stop all under-construction projects in the state and cancel them. This is important to prevent further damage to the already severely impacted valleys.

- Immediately release 60% water from all existing HEPs and ensure that this flow is maintained while steps towards systematic decommissioning of these HEPs are taken.

- Declare 150kms from glacier line (as the crow flies) as Cultural - Eco Zones where works that enhance the green cover of the area are carried out and the cultural, environmental sanctity of the Ganga-Himalayan basin is protected.

- Declare Ganga as world heritage in order to ensure that she is protected in future as well.

There are alternatives to electricity but there is & can never be any alternative to Ganga.

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