NGT asks AP not to go ahead with RLS without green nod

The proposed Rayalaseema Lift Scheme of the Andhra Pradesh government would lift water from Srisailam reservoir from 800 feet the National Green Tribunal noted   | Photo Credit: File photo

The National Green Tribunal (NGT), Southern Zone, has restrained Andhra Pradesh from going ahead with any work related to Rayalaseema Lift Scheme (RLS) planned by it without securing environmental clearance (EC) as it has found, prima facie, that “there is a component of irrigation envisaged in the project, which requires prior EC”.

In the 134-page judgment pronounced on Thursday by the Bench comprising Justice K. Ramakrishnan, Judicial Member, and Saibal Dasgupta, Expert Member, the NGT also observed that since the Ministry of Jal Shakti (MoJS) has already directed the AP government not to proceed with the project without submitting the detailed project report (DPR) to the Krishna River Management Board (KRMB), constituted under the provisions of AP Reorganisation Act, for getting the appraisal done there is no necessity for the Tribunal to go into that aspect.

The Tribunal also was of the opinion that it is for the river board to decide whether its (river board’s) prior approval is required or not for the RLS as it has be considered by the board after evaluating the DPR. The judgment was delivered by Justice Ramakrishnan.

Disagreeing with the finding of the committee of experts of the Ministry of Environment and Forests that the project proposed by AP does not require prior EC as it does not attract the provisions of Environmental Impact Assessment Notification, 2006. The tribunal agreed with the submissions of the counsel for the petitioner, one Gavinolla Srinivas from Narayanpet district, Sravan Kumar and Additional Advocate General of Telangana J. Ramachandra Rao that the scheme has been framed in such a way to avoid the process of obtaining EC in the guise of drinking water project, although it is intended for irrigation purpose as well.

‘Prepare DPR’

The counsel for the petitioner and Telangana government have also submitted that the actual purpose could be ascertained only if the DPR is prepared and impact assessment study is carried out on the basis of the DPR, the Tribunal said in its judgement.

Observing that there is change in the scope of the project, even if RLS is considered as expansion or supplementary project, since it seeks to draw water from 800 feet level of Srisailam reservoir against 854 feet level for existing projects — Telugu Ganga, Srisailam Right Bank Canal, Galeru-Nagari, drinking water to Chennai and supplementation to to K.C. Canal — and “it is very difficult to accept the view of the expert committee changing of water drawing level with lift pumping facility will not have any impact”.

Quantity required

The RLS which also includes the proposal to enhance the water drawal capacity of Pothireddypadu Head Regulator from the existing 44,000 cusecs to 80,000 cusecs but the AP government has not mentioned as to how much water is required for drinking purposes in Rayalaseema region and “what they propose to do with the remaining water that is to be drawn in excess of the present capacity”, the NGT said adding that earlier projects drawing water from Pothireddypadu have the component of irrigation as well.

“This Tribunal is of the view that the scheme is framed in such a way to come to the conclusion that it is only for drinking water purpose and no irrigation component is added so as to avoid the exercise of getting EC as required under EIA Notification and it (the Tribunal) is entitled to lift the veil off the project,” the NGT said in its judgment. Its impact on agriculture (irrigation) even if it is intended for the purpose of overcoming drought situations is not mentioned in the scheme and it could be ascertained only with proper evaluation, the Tribunal felt.

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Printable version | Oct 24, 2021 7:10:23 PM |

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