More than 100 hydroelectric projects planned by the Uttarakhand government are in jeopardy. The Union environment and forests ministry’s Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) has decided not to give forest clearance to any of the proposed projects until the National Ganga River Basin Authority conducts a cumulative impact assessment study of all proposed dams.
Uttarakhand has planned to build 300 small and large dams on various tributaries of the Ganga to tap the hydel potential of the state. The FAC has decided not to allow even one dam to proceed unless the total impact of all proposed dams is studied.
The Uttarakhand high court, hearing a petition by Bharat Jhunjhunwala, had asked the FAC to study the consequences of hundreds of dams planned by the state government through public sector units and private players. FAC toured the sites and consulted stakeholders and found serious violations in some existing dams. Besides, the government had not considered the consequences of building dams on almost all tributaries of the Ganga.
‘Threat to entire Ganga ecosystem’
The Union environment and forests ministry has raised the green flag on all dam projects on the river Ganga. The move impacts Uttarakhand, which has planned nearly 300 projects on the river and its tributaries. Considering that over 60% of the hill state’s land is forested, almost all projects require forest clearance under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.
Sources said the Uttarakhand government even refused to share the detailed map of projects it plans to build, with the environment and forests ministry’s Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) team.
The committee noted that in view of the preliminary assessment and the fact that several dozen more small, medium and large projects were in various stages of formulation, there was potential for irreparable and irreversible damage to the entire river ecosystem. It recommended that no further projects be considered by FAC without a comprehensive study of carrying capacity of Ganga in the hilly terrain up to Haridwar.
Acknowledging that it did not have the requisite expertise to conduct such a study, FAC has asked that National Ganga River Basin Authority, which is headed by the Prime Minister, set up a committee of experts to conduct the study.