Daily Mail: When it comes to conservation of river Ganga, the government seems to be moving at snail’s pace.
Even 10 months after issuing a notification to declare 135 km stretch of the river from its origin at Gaumukh as eco-sensitive zone (ESZ), the ministry of environment and forests has failed to finalise it. The three month mandatory period for receiving comments and suggestions on the draft expired in October last year but the final version of the notification is yet to be published.
The notification was issued in response to agitation by environmental and social groups in Uttarakhand. As part of the effort to restore ecology of the river from Gaumukh to Uttarkashi, work was stopped on three major hydroelectric dams coming up in this stretch. But now the notification has not only been stalled, demands for restarting the work on shelved dams have also resurfaced. The notification was aimed at maintenance of ‘environmental flow and ecology’ of the river.
The zone would cover 100 metres area on either banks and restrict or prohibit activities like drawing water for industrial activities, mining, stone quarrying and crushing, discharge of waste and industrial effluents into the river. BJP government in Uttarakhand opposed the notification saying it would hinder development activities, while green groups were unhappy because construction of hydropower plants upto 25 MW capacity was permitted in the proposed zone.
Environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan this week assured environmental groups that final version of the notification would be prepared keeping in mind suggestions made by them.
However, she may find it tough to do so because the new Congress government headed by Vijay Bahuguna, much like the BJP governments of the past, is a votary of new power projects on the Ganga.
Meanwhile, G.D. Agrawal – former IIT professor now known as Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand – has resumed his fast to press for his demand to scrap all hydropower projects in the hills. He had broken his fast last month on assurance that the National Ganga River Basin Authority headed by the Prime Minister would discuss his demands.
The Authority did meet on April 17 but did not take any decision on Agrawal’s demands, so he has resumed his agitation. A meeting of the Parliamentary Forum Water Conservation and Management held on Friday also decided to take up the matter with the Prime Minister. Some activists in Dehradun have threatened to go on hunger strike to press for construction of more hydro power projects in the state.
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