The Uttarakhand High Court on Monday ordered that all construction activities along river banks, including construction of hydroelectric power projects, and road construction projects in the state, be stayed till suitable muck disposal sites, for discarding the muck generated during the construction activities are identified and are made operational.
The order stated: “The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Uttarakhand Environment Protection & Pollution Control Board and Revenue Agencies, are directed to identify suitable muck disposal sites 500 meters away from the river banks for disposal of muck and excavated material…”
“Till the disposal sites are identified and become operational, all construction activities or widening of roads on the river banks in the state shall remain stayed,” the order stated.
The court order came when the Division Bench of Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Lok Pal Singh was hearing a PIL that was filed by Himadri Jan Kalyan Sansthan, an Agastyamuni-based NGO, in 2015, where the NGO had requested that the authorities and agencies involved in dam-construction on the Mandakini and Alaknanda rivers, must be ordered to stop the disposal of muck along the riverbanks.
On Monday, the court also directed the concerned agencies to ensure a “minimum 15 per cent flow of water immediately downstream of the weir, barrage, or dam.”
A case on the 900-km long all-weather Char Dham roads project in the state is already ongoing in the National Green Tribunal (NGT), where the NGT has raised objections on the current methods of muck dumping.
Hydroelectric power projects of upto 2,000 MW are currently under construction in Uttarakhand.
In June 2013 thousands of people were killed as rivers across the state got flash flooded.
After the 2013 deluge, while hearing a case on the hydroelectric power projects that are mushrooming across Uttarakhand, the Supreme Court had asked the union environment ministry to form a committee to study whether the hydroelectric power projects had exacerbated the deluge.
In its report, the Chopra Committee, which was formed after the Supreme Court order, had mentioned the catastrophic role that the dams in Uttarakhand had played during the 2013 deluge, especially due to the muck dumping along the riverbanks. The report also mentioned that the Uttarakhand government had planned 450 dams across the state “to harness its potential of 27,039 MW”.
The case on the feasibility of dam construction in Uttarakhand is currently ongoing in the Supreme Court.