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Protection and Conservation of National River Ganga

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Statement of concern September 23, 2013 Honorable Prime Minister, The National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) was constituted more than 4 years ago for coordinating the planning, financing, and monitoring functions for the conservation of Ganga River, partly as a response to pressure from civil society groups and the protest led by Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand, formerly Dr. G.D. Agrawal, who served with distinction at IIT-Kanpur and the Central Pollution Control Board. Underlining the supreme importance of such an Authority, it was headed by you personally and consisted of several Union Ministers, State Chief Ministers, and nine independent experts. However, the resignation last week of three of these experts from the Authority calls into focus the troubled functioning of this important body. The three experts who resigned have drawn attention to the fact that the NGRBA has met only three times since its creation. The last meeting was on April 17, 2012 and the one before that in November 2010. They had also requested for an early meeting of the NGRBA this year to review the implications of the Uttarakhand disaster for the various projects planned on the river, given that there was extensive damage to life and property because of the collapse of the barrage of the 400 MW Vishnuprayag HEP at Lambagad, the unauthorized emptying of the reservoir of the 280 MW dam on the Dhauliganga (E), and the burial of parts of Srinagar (Garhwal) town under 30 feet of sand and muck from the damaged 330 MW project just upstream of it. However, this meeting was never called, and it is now apparent that the real decisions are being made outside the purview of the Authority in two Steering Committees packed with officials. There is no non-official member in these committees despite an assurance by the then Minister for Environment and Forests that some of them would be included. The Steering Committees have benevolently sanctioned projects (mainly for construction purposes) worth several thousand crore rupees, about which the NGRBA members are not even informed regularly, nor is their advice sought on the utility of these projects, nor are they involved in any monitoring exercise. There is, therefore, serious cause for concern whether the thousands of crores are being properly and usefully spent or are they being squandered away, as in the Ganga Action Plan earlier. The construction of the hydropower projects in the country is clearly being driven by an economic growth model about whose suitability there have been many questions in the public domain, not least within the NGRBA. Many analysts have argued that primacy needs to be given to developing India’s human and social capital along with the growth of its natural capital. There have also been accompanying concerns about the implications of global warming and climate change for hydropower generation in the upper Ganga basin. In this context we wish to draw your attention to the over 100 day fast of Swami Sanand (Dr. G. D. Agrawal is also an eminent dam design engineer)demanding the stoppage of hydropower generation from the Ganga. He has now stopped consuming even water. It is unfortunate that the State and Union Governments have been systematically ignoring his protests and doubly unfortunate that the NGRBA has not formally met with the eminent scientist even once, despite a previous commitment to do so. We, therefore,independently and collectively: • condemn the functioning of the NGRBA so far; • demand that the NRGBA immediately commission a review of the Uttarakhand disaster by a multi-disciplinary team of experts, at least half of them being independent of the government and corporate bodies; • call for an immediate halt to construction of all hydropower projects on the Ganga river system until the review has been completed; and • petition you, the Union Ministers of Environment and of Power, and members of NGRBA to immediately meet with Swami Sanand (Dr. G.D. Agrawal) and discuss the issues raised by him. Dunu Roy, New Delhi Ragini Prem, Sonbhadra Anil Gautam, Dehra Dun Signed Name Institution email

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