The Centre’s latest affidavit in the Supreme Court, linking the 2013 Uttarakhand floods and landslides with the development of hydropower projects, reflects the deteriorating relations between the NDA government at the Centre and the Harish Rawat-led Congress government in the state.
Five days before the Centre filed the affidavit, Rawat had written to Union Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar, asking him not to link the June 2013 disaster to the hydropower projects. The plea was ignored by the Ministry of Environment and Forest.
Referring to an August 2013 order by the Supreme Court, wherein it directed the Centre to conduct fresh reviews of projects and ordered a blanket ban on granting more environmental clearances to projects in the region, Rawat wrote to Javadekar: “I would like to bring to your notice that implementation of all projects proposed in Alaknanda and Bhagirathi basins, which are in various stages of implementation, are held up or delayed due to aforesaid judgement.”
In the same letter, he had requested Javadekar to try and get the ban lifted at the earliest by submitting a firm view by the ministry in the court.
However, the Centre told the court in the latest affidavit that the projects had an impact on the floods and enhanced landslides in the state.
Earlier, on July 7, Rawat had written a two-page letter to Javadekar about his government’s view on the matter. “I reiterate that the Government of Uttarakhand will like to go with the views/recommendations of the Central Water Commission (CWC) and Central Electricity Authority (CEA) on the subject.”
Rawat said that the CWC and the CEA had disagreed with the recommendations of the expert body set up by the Centre to look into the disaster. He added that even a representative of Uttarakhand in the expert body has disagreed with its findings.
The CM had also highlighted three different studies conducted independently by expert bodies other than the one set up by the Centre. “In all the three reports, it has been observed that the main reason of the disaster was high discharges in the rivers due to high melting rate of glaciers and unprecedented rainfall and cloud bursts in catchment areas. Nowhere it has been mentioned that the disaster occurred due to hydropower projects. The hydroelectric projects… in fact minimised the damage… by holding back water in reservoirs,” Rawat had said.