Three expert members quit Ganga basin authority

Resignation letters express dismay over hydropower projects being pushed in the river basin without their knowledge; accuse government of apathy towards environmentalist on hunger protest

By Soma Basu
Published: Tuesday 24 September 2013

Unhappy over the functioning of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA), three of its expert members, Rajendra Singh, Ravi Chopra and Rashid Siddiqui, have tendered their resignation letters. The authority, headed by the prime minister, is responsible for comprehensive management of the Ganga river basin.

The expert members cited government's apathy towards G D Agarwal, who has been on an indefinite fast since June, as another reason for quitting the authority.

“The Uttarakhand disaster this year  confirmed that many of the fears we expressed about the mismanagement of the Ganges river were valid. It has raised several questions about the way we have abused our rivers. Soon after the disaster, some of us brought this matter to you and sought a brief meeting with you to discuss the issue and seek an early meeting of the Authority. But that never happened,” the resignation letter sent to the Prime Minister's Office by the members said.

The expert members expressed their dismay at the way hydropower projects on the Ganga and its tributaries are being pushed without even their knowledge. “We are distressed that the NGRBA has not met since April 17, 2012. Even that meeting took place after a gap of nearly 18 months at the insistence of some of the expert members. Since November 2011, decisions have been taken on spending several thousand crore rupees on a variety of physical projects by steering committees, in which none of the expert members have been included. We first hear about the projects from media reports. We are never asked to even comment on the usefulness of these projects. We have repeatedly expressed our opposition to the manner in which several hydropower projects have been approved in the River Ganga basin. Yet without adequate discussion in the Authority these projects have been proceeding at a furious pace,” the resignation letter read.

The members said that they have been receiving demands, requests and other inputs from devotees of river Ganga, scientists and other well-wishers of Ganga to improve its health. But in the absence of any meeting of the NGRBA, the members do not have an appropriate forum to voice them, they said. “Even if the prime minister does not accept my resignation, I would not be a part of the authority because it is ineffective and there is no point prolonging it,” said Chopra.

G D Agarwal's condition deteriorates

The members accused the government of ignoring former IIT professor Agarwal’s indefinite hunger strike. “Dr G D Agarwal who served with distinction at IIT-Kanpur and Central Pollution Control Board, has been on a tapasya for 100 days now in an attempt to draw the attention of your government to the plight of national river Ganga. But he too has been ignored. From tomorrow he will stop consuming even water,” they wrote in the letter.

The three members had resigned from NGBRA earlier in March, 2012, protesting government inaction to save the Ganga. However, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did not accept their resignation and called for a meeting of NGBRA members.

Agarwal, who is demanding that all hydropower projects on rivers of Uttarakhand should be scrapped, was shifted to Doon Hospital on Monday.
A team of doctors and government officials visited Matri Sadan Ashram in Haridwar to examine Agarwal's health. Soon, Agarwal was shifted to the hospital in Dehradun. He had stopped consuming water, honey and lime water from September 21 when his fast entered the 101st day.

Report of the Inter-Ministerial Group on issues relating to river Ganga

Environmental flows for Kumbh 2013 at triveni sangam, Allahabad
Environmental and social management framework of National Ganga River Basin Authority: a consultation draft

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