Protests resume at Loharinag Pala

As government decides to restart Bhagirathi project

By Ravleen Kaur
Published: Sunday 15 August 2010

imageAN INDEFINITE fast and protests are back at Loharinag Pala dam site on the Bhagirathi river, a key tributary of the Ganga in Uttarakhand, as the government decided to revive a 600 MW hydroelectric project on the recommendations of a Group of Ministers (GoM).

The GoM said the dam, when complete, should operate only for six months in a year and release 16 cubic metres (cumecs) of water into the main river. Construction of Loharinag Pala dam began in 2007 and was suspended last year.

Construction has to resume because the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) had completed 40 per cent of the work at a cost of approximately Rs 600 crore, said minister for forest and environment Jairam Ramesh at a meeting on July 16. While addressing protesters, Ramesh added, “The government wants this project and the reasons are purely fiscal, not environ - mental.”

Opposing the decision, G D Agarwal, former member secretary of the Central Pollution Control Board, went on an indefinite fast from July 20. The Ministry of Power suspended construction when Agarwal went on a hunger protest the last time on February 20, 2009.

But work resumed soon after and went on till the National Ganga River Basin Authority held its first meeting in October last year. The authority formed a committee in January which recommended decommissioning of dams on the Ganga. “The committee did not state clearly what needs to be done. I still feel that Loharinag Pala should not be built, but people in other ministries feel otherwise,” Ramesh said at the authority’s meeting.

Swami Avimuk- teshwaranand Saraswati, who heads the religious campaign to save the Ganga, said they were planning to reimburse the money spent on the dam through public funding, but the government ignored their offer.

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