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The Goa government has been left bewildered with the Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change’s decision to grant the Karnataka government permission for an Rs 800 crore river diversion project while dispensing the requirement for environmental clearance.
The Goa government has fought a 15-year long battle over the waters of River Mahadayi. The river originates in the Western Ghats in North Karnataka along the border with Karnataka and flows as the Mandovi into Goa.
A letter has been sent to Union Minister Prakash Javadekar by Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, who questioned the basis of the MoEF’s conclusion that the project does not need an environmental clearance.
“Mahadayi river is the lifeline of Goa, and the Mahadayi basin constitutes almost half of the territory of the state. There are five wildlife sanctuaries and one bird sanctuary within the Mahadayi basin. The Mahadayi basin area is ecologically fragile and a hotspot of biodiversity,” Hindustan Times quoted Sawant as saying in the letter.
“It seems to vide their letter the MoEFCC has conveyed to the state of Karnataka that the Kalasa Banduri project being a drinking water project does not need environment clearance. It is not understood on what basis the ministry reached this conclusion, that the said project is purely a drinking water project,” Sawant said.
The MoEFCC noted in a letter to the Chief Engineer of the Kalasa-Banduri drinking water project that the scheme for drinking water supply “doesn’t envisage creating new command area or providing water to suffering existing command areas for irrigation. Also, the project doesn’t involve hydroelectric power generation.”
“The above proposal was deliberated in the ministry and noted that the instant project does not propose any hydroelectric power generation component nor any irrigation component and thus has no command area. It is noted that the instant project is purely a drinking water supply scheme and does not attract the provisions of the EIA notification 2006 and its subsequent amendments,” states the letter.
Environmentalists are confused over the MoEF’s decision as the diversion scheme involves the construction of three dams, two canals to divert water and the diversion of 499.13 hectares of forest land including submergence of 406.60 hectares of forest land.
The project is massive and envisages the diversion of west-flowing streams in the Mahadayi basin to the Malaprabha basin, which is allegedly water deficit, by the construction of dams across the Haltara, Kalasa and Banduri streams. To cross the ridges at the cost of Rs 840.52 crore, what the project proposes is to divert 7.56 TMC of water during monsoon season through Interconnecting gravity canals.
Goa government was left puzzled because, during the hearing of the dispute before the tribunal, Karnataka admitted that an irrigation component was there to the project.
“In light of the above, I request you to direct the Ministry of Environment and Forests to withdraw the letter immediately,” Sawant said in his letter.
“I also request you to direct the Ministry to not entertain any further request from Karnataka for any kind of clearance of a project in the Mahadayi basin, whether the Environment Clearance, forest clearance, wildlife clearance, etc., until the apex court finally resolves the disputes, the clarifications as sought are given by the Tribunal, and the Union Government notifies the award and made operative,” Sawant said.
From their total claims of 7.56 TMC, the tribunal awarded Karnataka 3.45 TMC in its verdict last year. The breakup says that from their claims of 3.56 and 4 TMC, Karnataka has been allowed to divert 1.18 TMC from the Kalasa Nala and 2.27 TMC from the Banduri Nala respectively. The central government is yet to notify the award. Various portions of the award have been challenged before the Supreme Court by Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa.
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