The National Green Tribunal has directed all states to maintain a minimum environmental flow of 15 to 20 per cent of the average lean season course in their rivers. E-flow defines the quantity, timing and quality of water flow required to sustain freshwater and estuarine ecosystems, besides human livelihood.
A bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar, however, said that if any state is unable to adhere to this average percentage then it may approach the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). “We direct that all the rivers in the country shall maintain minimum 15 per cent to 20 per cent of the average lean season flow of that river. However, whichever state is unable to adhere to this average percentage, in that event we grant liberty to that state government to move to the MoEF secretary who shall in consultation with the Ministry of Water Resources examine such a representation…,” the bench said. It also said that if it is desirable to fix any lower percentage than the percentage aforestated, then it will pass appropriate order.
The order came after the counsel for the environment ministry told the tribunal that it has completed study of six river basins — Siang, Tawang, Bichom, Subansiri, Dibang and Lohit. It said the Ministry has recommended the minimum flow of the river to be 18 per cent of the average of lean season flow of the river. However, in some of the cases, it has stated to be even 20 per cent.
The tribunal also granted liberty to the petitioner in the case to approach the environment ministry if it has material with respect to any of the rivers where this direction is not being followed. “If such representation is moved the same shall be disposed of by the committee headed by Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in accordance with law,” the bench said.
The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by environment activist Pushp Saini seeking directions to the Centre and the states to maintain minimum environment flow in the rivers across the country to ensure their uninterrupted flow.