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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 25, June 12, 2010

Scrap All Dams and Hydropower Projects on Ganga

Monday 14 June 2010

Call from Srinagar (Garhwal) Seminar

The following is a statement issued by participants at a seminar “Social and Environmental Impacts of Hydro Power Projects on Alaknanda and Mandakini Rivers”, HNB Garhwal (Central) University, Srinagar

(Garhwal), Uttarakhand, April 24-25, 2010.

We, the undersigned, who gathered in Srinagar (Uttarakhand) from different parts of India on April 24 and 25, 2010, join together with the people of Uttarakhand to assert with all the force at our command that the task of protection, revival and rejuvenation of Ganga with all its eco-system ought to be treated as a national priority, especially considering that the Government of India has declared it as the National River.

Ganga is popularly referred to as a nurturing mother; therefore, Mother Ganga, including all its tributaries, cannot be treated as a mere “resource” to be exploited. Therefore, the govern-ment must give due respect to the dharmic and spiritual significance of Mother Ganga in the hearts and minds of the people of India and ensure that its waters flow in its natural flow in order for them to remain pure.

On April 24, 2010, three different teams visited three different dams claiming to be “run-of-the-river” power projects to get a first-hand assessment of these controversial projects. What we witnessed in and around all three project sites provided visible evidence of the harmful consequences of these projects. They are far too invasive to qualify being called “run-of-the-river” projects—they can at best be described as “running-away-with-the-river” projects. The field visit was followed by a meeting held under the chairmanship of Dr U.S. Rawat, Registrar, HNB Garhwal (Central) University.

We welcome the decision of the Government of India to stop the Bhaironghati 380 MW plant and Pala Maneri 480 MW plant. We also welcome the news that the 600 megawatt Loharinagpala dam is also likely to be scrapped soon.

But the battle for rejuvenating Ganga requires many more measures. This assembly of concerned citizens draws national attention to the following facts:

1. We express concern over the fact that as on October 31, 2009, 89 dams were in operation, 25 were being implemented by various CPSUs, 42 were under development by private parties and 134 were being developed by the State Government agencies on all rivers of Uttarakhand combined. More dams are being proposed. Large number of these projects are proposed or under development on Bhagirathi and Alaknanda rivers. If these dams are allowed to come into being the Bhagirathi, Alaknanda and Mandakini rivers will completely disappear in tunnels with bumper-to-bumper dams being constructed on them. There would be no water in large stretches of the bed of these rivers if the Uttarakhand Government goes ahead with its plans.

2. We warn that if all the proposed power plants get commissioned then the biodiversity and water life of the Ganga Basin will be entirely destroyed.

3. We express concern over the fact that villages situated on and around the banks of Ganga and its tributaries are experiencing severe water shortages and atmospheric pollution leading to severe illnesses, destruction of agriculture, animal husbandry. Massive deforestation has also led to increasing scarcity of fodder making it difficult to feed milch animals.

4. As a consequence of scarcity of water, fuel and water resources, life in these villages is becoming unviable leading to large scale distress migration from these ancient habitations. This is destroying the social, cultural fabric of these communities and contributing to their civilisational genocide.

5. We are constrained to observe that proper relief and rehabilitation packages and local area development plans have not been implemented in respect of running hydropower projects.

6. Reviews of several EIA reports show that many hydropower projects do not plan to release environment flows in the river. The proposed releases will end up killing the river. As a result, the jaldhara of Ganga will dry up at Srinagar itself. The water released after being used in turbines is, in any event, dead water.

7. The extremely important confluences of spiritual and historical value such as Nand Prayag (Alaknanda and Nandakini), Karna Prayag (Alaknanda and Pindar), Rudra Prayag (Alaknanda and Mandakini) and Dev Prayag (Bhagirathi and Alaknanda) of the Ganga with its various tributaries stand to be destroyed by these projects.

We express our deep anguish at the systematic attempts to kill Mother Ganga and all its small and big tributaries right in its land of birth. If the scheme of the Uttarakhand Government to build bumper-to-bumper dams all along the course of the river and forcing its waters to flow through nearly 1500 kilometres of tunnels while pouring all the industrial and domestic sewage into the holy waters of Ganga succeeds, it will kill Mother Ganga, destroy the unique famed purity of its waters and ravage the Himalayas. These harmful consequences have now also been confirmed by the interim report of Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) presented to the Governor of Uttarakhand but not yet presented to Parliament.

The pure waters of Mother Ganga belong to the entire nation. Therefore, we, the undersigned, join hands with the most adversely affected people of people of Uttarakhand to demand that

i) An expert committee of independent experts and non-official members of NGRBA be constituted to study the environmental and social impacts of hydropower projects under construction such as Koteshwar on Bhagirathi; Singoli Bhatwari and Phata-Byung on Mandakini; and Srinagar and Vishnugad Pipalkoti on Alaknanda and to decide whether to continue with these projects. The work on these projects be stopped with immediate effect till the report of the committee is received and discussed in a public hearing.

ii) An expert committee of independent experts and non-official members of NGRBA may be constituted to study the possibility of decommissioning or redesigning presently running hydropower projects in order to remove the negative cultural, social and environmental impacts.

iii) All proposed dams, such as Devsari on Pindar and the three projects that will submerge the ancient holy confluence of Dev Prayag—Kotlibhel 1A, 1B and 2—should be scrapped and their MoUs cancelled forthwith.

iv) Union and State governments should come out with a white paper on the environmental, social and economic costs and benefits of running hydropower projects.

v) An expert committee of independent experts and non-official members of NGRBA be constituted to revisit the true productive demand for electricity and to explore alternative sources of energy and reduction of demand by Demand Side Management and other strategies.

vi) The interim report of CAG be presented to Parliament at the earliest possible opportunity.

Mohan Singh Panwar, Department of Geography, HNB Central University, Srinagar; J.P. Pachauri, Department of Sociology, HNB Central University, Srinagar; Arvind Darmora, Centre for Mountain Development, HNB

Central University, Srinagar

Issued on behalf of

1. Sundar Lal Bahuguna, Tehri.

2. Sitaram Bahuguna, Nadi ki Pati, Srinagar.

3. Suresh Bhai, Himalya Paryavaran Sanrakshan Samiti, Matli, Uttarkashi.

4. Vimal Bhai, Matu Jan Sangthan.

5. Sushila Bhandari, Gajpal Singh Negi, Sridhar Purohit and Chandan Singh Rana, Singoli-Bhatwari.

6. Mallika Bhanot and Hemant Dyani, Ganga Aavahan, Arya Vihar, Uttrakashi.

7. Ashok Bharat, Yuva Bharat.

8. Sudhakar D. Bhatt, Ex-Principal, ITI, Srinagar.

9. Sumit Chakravartty, Editor, Mainstream.

10. Arun Chandan, Mountain Forum Himalayas, Dharamsala.

11. Swami Chinmayananda, Haridwar.

12. Ravi Chopra, People’s Science Institute, Dehra Dun.

13. Rahul Chaoudhary, Lawyer, New Delhi.

14. Jagat Singh Choudhary, ‘Jangalee’, Environ-mentalist, Rudra Prayag.

15. Kishore Chauhan, Department of Geography, Government College, Paukhal.

16. Ritwick Datta, Lawyer, New Delhi.

17. Vinuta Gopal, Greenpeace, Bangalore.

18. Pardeep K. Gupta, Director, Indira Gandhi Center For Environment Protection, Dehra Dun.

19. Acharya Jitendra, Ganga Mahasabha, Varanasi.

20. Ranjit Singh Jakhi, Adan Sansthan, Srinagar.

21. Bharat Jhunjhunwala, Columnist.

22. Kameshwar Kamati and Kavindra Pandey, Institute of Alternative Approach to Development and Badh Mukti Abhiyan, Patna.

23. Madhu Kishwar, Editor, Manushi.

24. Shiv Kumar and Sadhvi Samarpita, Akhand Bodh Ganga, Raiwala.

25. Kashmiri Lal, Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, New Delhi.

26. Dinesh Misra, Devsari.

27. Prem Vallabh Naithai, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Srinagar.

28. Gangadhar Nautiyal, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Rudra Prayag.

29. Laxman Singh Negi, Joshimath.

30. Virendra Painuly, Development Consultant, Dehradun.

31. Basant Pandey, Gandhi Peace Foundation, Almora.

32. Rajendra Singh Pankaj, Central Secretary, Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

33. Bhuwan Pathak, Socialist.

34. Sridhar Ramamurthy, New Delhi.

35. Bhawani Rawat, Kotlibhel Project.

36. Swami Shivanada Saraswati and Vijay Verma, Matri Sadan, Haridwar.

37. G.N. Semwal, Consultant, GOUK.

38. Rajendra Singh, Tarun Bharat Sangh.

39. Bhavani Shankar Thapaliyal, Regional Reporter.

40. Puran Chand Tiwari, Almora.

41. Dev Mani Tripathi, Asst Prof, Zoology, Rishikesh.

42. Paritosh C. Tyagi, New Delhi.

Invitees who have consented to the Statement

43. A.K. Arun, Editor, Yuva Samvad.

44. Rajesh Dokwal, Nature Foundation, New Delhi.

45. R. Govindhari, Secretary, Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha, Hyderabad.

46. Ashwani Kumar Mahajan, Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, New Delhi.

47. P.S. Sharda, Advocate, New Delhi.