Supreme Court allows canal work

Overrules high court on Narmada irrigation projects

By Ravleen Kaur
Published: Wednesday 31 March 2010

THE Supreme Court has allowed the Madhya Pradesh government to resume construction of canal networks of Indira Sagar and Omkareshwar dam projects on the Narmada. On February 25, the court overturned the state high court order that halted the work following a petition by activist Medha Patkar. She had demanded work should resume only after Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF)  clears the plan for afforesting and treating the river’s catchment area.

The ministry at the time of giving environmental clearances to the two projects in 1987 and 1993 had specified these were conditional to submission of catchment treatment plans and rehabilitation of affected people in Khandwa and Khargone districts. The plans were submitted in October last year after the MOEF pulled up the state.

The ministry’s counsel and the petitioning counsel argued that allowing construction without ministry’s clearance may lead to wastage of public money if it turns out that canals have been dug in places where it does not benefit farmers or leads to salinity when top soil is removed. But the bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan said construction work that has been “going on for 15 years cannot be stopped like this”. The bench directed the ministry to get the plans assessed and take a decision by May. It said work could resume immediately.

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