Water activists are up in arms against the reconstituted Expert Appraisal Committee for River Valley and Hydroelectric Projects saying that the panel lacks a multidisciplinary representation and is “completely unacceptable”.
The committee which is to meet soon for considering clearances to crucial projects such as the 3000MW Dibang hydel project in Arunachal Pradesh and other irrigation projects in Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, is headed by a former bureaucrat and has on board only government representatives or government-funded academic organisations.
Activists Ritwick Dutta, Himanshu Thakker, Parineeta Dutta and Manoj Mishra have alleged that a former coal secretary, who has been appointed as the chairman, is known to be “anti-environment”. The reconstituted committee was notified by the Ministry of Environment and Forests on Thursday.
“It is shocking to see that the former coal secretary, who has absolutely no background of environment or rivers, who has been accusing the environment Ministry to be roadblock in coal mining projects and who has betrayed his ignorance of environment issues on several occasions has been selected as chairperson,” says a press statement issued by the activists.
“It is equally disturbing that the panel has no woman representation, no sociologist, none from the non-government organisations whereas its mandate is not only environmental clearances but to look at the Resettlement and Rehabilitation aspects as well. There are no biodiversity, river, climate change, disaster management and social experts as well. With all members from government or government-funded bodies, it is clear that they will not be able to take a stand independent of the government,” the activists said.
Government sources told The Hindu that the panel was likely to hold its first meeting towards the end of the month when it would consider crucial hydroelectric projects for clearance.
The panel’s mandate was to examine a river valley or hydroelectric project “critically” for impact on the environment and displacement of people and measures to mitigate the impact.