Days after the Supreme Court agreed to hear the issue of hydroelectricity projects put on hold in Uttarakhand in the aftermath of the 2013 flash floods, the Prime Minister’s Office has summoned officials of the ministries concerned to forge a consensus in favour of lifting the ban.
In January 2016, the Environment ministry told the apex court that the stake-holding ministries had reached a policy decision — based on a 1916 agreement between Madan Mohan Malviya and the colonial government — to allow any hydel project that releases at least 1,000 cusecs (cubic feet per second) of water into the Ganga or its tributaries.
However, Uma Bharti, who was then Minister for Ganga Rejuvenation, wrote to her counterpart in the Environment Ministry, expressing shock that the latter had made a submission to the court even though no policy consensus had been reached. Subsequently, on a direction from the apex court in April 2016, the Ganga Rejuvenation ministry filed its own affidavit, opposing the projects while the Power ministry backed the submission made earlier by Environment.
The issue has remained unresolved since. Meanwhile, Uma Bharti was divested of the Ganga rejuvenation and water resources portfolios last September when Nitin Gadkari took charge of both ministries.
On January 23, Niti Aayog vice chairman Rajiv Kumar chaired a meeting of the officials from the three stake-holding ministries and the state. On February 3, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case between February 19 and 23.
The Indian Express has learnt that Nripendra Misra, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, will chair a meeting Thursday to iron out differences so that the government can present a unified stand before the court.
Misra did not respond to requests for comment.
Incidentally, Misra had chaired a similar meeting in January 2015 “to discuss issues relating to Hydro-Electric projects in Uttarakhand” after the state had opposed the Bhagirathi Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ) between Gomukh and Uttarkashi as an anti-development move. At the meeting, the Environment ministry revised its stand on the 2012 Bhagirathi ESZ notification to accept that an ESZ could not be declared without a proposal from the state government.