Green tribunal stays filling up of Maheshwar dam reservoir

Environment ministry yet to set up committee to supervise lowering of dam gates and partial filling of reservoir

By Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava
Published: Saturday 02 June 2012

The National Green Tribunal has stayed the permission granted by the Union environment ministry on May 1 to partially fill up the reservoir of the Maheshwar dam on the river Narmada. In its order passed on May 31, the tribunal has asked the project proponents to maintain status quo till further orders.

The 400 MW power project is being built on the Narmada in Khargone district of Madhya Pradesh by Shree Maheshwar Hydel Power Corporation Limited. Environmental Clearance (EC) to the project was granted in 1994. Since then, it has been mired in controversies. The project was stalled by the ministry in April 2010 after objections were raised by  environmentalists over environmental hazards of the project and extremely slow pace of rehabilitation work.

The ministry, however, relented and allowed construction of remaining five gates of the dam in May last year, citing a technical reason, but said it will neither allow closure of gates nor any submergence till rehabilitation is complete. Meanwhile, it constituted a committee of experts to look into the grievances and environmental hazards related to the project and inquire into the alleged violation of environmental clearance conditions.

On May 1, the ministry gave conditional clearance to filling up of Maheshwar reservoir partially up to 154 metres. It, however, said the lowering of gates and impounding up to 154 m level shall be carried out under the close supervision of a committee comprising representatives of Central Water Commission, Union environment ministry, the state government, district administration and state departments of irrigation and energy. The project-affected people filed a petition before the tribunal, alleging that the ministry has given the permission to the project without going through the report prepared by the committee to look into the grievances and environmental hazards of the project.

During the hearing on May 31, the petitioners also pointed out that the committee referred to in the May 1 order for supervising filling up of reservoir had not been constituted till date, and as such implementation of the order would be illegal. “After hearing Learned Counsel for the parties, we feel that implementation of the order dated 1st May, 2012, pending constitution of the Committee, would create immense hardship to common populace. We, therefore, direct that status-quo as on date shall be maintained until further orders,” said the NGT. The next hearing is scheduled for July 5.

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