Resolves of the Emergency Meeting to decide Plan of Action against the illegal decision of the GoM to allow resumption of Loharinag-Pala Power Project
Shankracharya designate Swami Avimukteshwaranand ji presided over an emergency meeting organized by Manushi Sangathan, Ganga Ahvaan and Ganga Yamuna Jal Biradri to express our strong protest against the patently illegal decision of the Group of Ministers giving clearance to the Loharinag-Pala dam on the Ganga River. The following expert members of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA)-- Rashid Hyatt Siddiqui, Rajendra Singh, Rama Raota and Ravi Chopra----also participated in the meeting to express their distress at having been kept in the dark about the appointment of the GoM which has passed a virtual death sentence on the most sacred river of India.
Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh also joined the meeting to explain the Government’s stand. We were surprised to hear Mr Ramesh speak more as a representative of the Power and Finance ministries than as a person assigned the job of protecting the environment when he justified the decision of the GoM on “fiscal grounds.” But as Swami Avimukteshwaranand ji pointed in his inimitable way: “Will a person eat a plate of food put in front of him if he knows it to be poisoned no matter how much expense was incurred on the dishes ordered for him?” Continuing with this Project amounts to a death wish for Ganga; it will mean wasting more money in order to “save’ already misspent money.
|Save Ganga Meeting presided over by Shankracharya designate Swami Avimukteshwaranand ji
GoM Takes illegal Decision
It was communicated to the Minister that we consider this decision illegal and in bad faith for the following reasons:
1) The Ministry of Environment has admitted that the Loharinag Pala Project does not merit environmental clearance. In fact, the list of serious violations of basic environmental laws with already visible disastrous consequences is so long that those who went ahead with the Project would deserve stringent punishment if the Government put in place an honest system of evaluation and implementation of its own laws.
2) There was no official information about the appointment of the GoM. Even the non government members of the NGRBA came to know unofficially that the Prime Minister had appointed the GoM to resolve the conflict over the Loharinag-Pala project between the ministries of power and environment. Instead, the Power Ministry and the Finance Ministry have prevailed over the Environment Ministry and gave a go ahead to this damned dam. INow we are told that its decision is to be conveyed to a surreptitiously created “Standing Committee” which does not have a single non government member of the NGRBA. The existence of this Standing Committee was not even known till the GoM announced on July 8th, 2010 that it was forwarding its decision to this arbitrarily created body.
3) It is not clear whether Dr Manmohan Singh appointed the Standing Committee in his capacity as the Prime Minister or in his capacity as the Chairperson of the NGRBA. In either case, it is a blatant attempt to undermine the mandate, authority and credibility of NGRBA. Noted Supreme Court lawyer Mr. MC Mehta who participated in the meeting confirmed that the GoM and the Standing Committee have no legal standing and that their decision is a brazen violation of the mandate and authority of the NGRBA.
4) This decision of the GoM is in clear violation of the following commitments made by the GoI:
a) The written assurance given by the Ministry of Power to Professor GD Agarwal after his indefinite fast in 2008 that the Government would ensure an environmental flow for Mother Ganga. Professor Aggarwal has already informed the Power Minister that this betrayal by the Government leaves him no choice but to resume his fast unto death from July 20, 2010.
b) The public assurances given by the Minister of State for Environment first on on February 10, 2010 in Delhi before an all India Ganga Panchayat organized by the Ganga Jalbiradri and Manushi Sangathan comprising of important religious leaders and concerned citizens and second time at Matri Sadan on April 7, 2010 in Haridwar that the aviralta and nirmalta (uninterrupted ecological flow) of river Ganga would be ensured and these destructive dams would be scrapped. This promise had given us hope that the Central Government would put a halt to further destruction of our sacred rivers and the mighty Himalayas.
|Swami Avimukteshwaranand and Mr Jairam Ramesh engaged in heated arguments
c) A team of three experts of NGRBA authorized by the Authority to visit the Project sites and prepare a report on the environmental impact of these Projects had given a very adverse report and unanimously recommended as recently as March 2010 that the Loharinag-Pala dam be decommissioned. (See the attached power point for pictorial evidence of the environmental and economic damage caused on account of the existing power projects).
d) The decision taken by the GoM under the chairmanship of Mr Pranab Mukherjee can at best be treated as a recommendation because the deciding power actually vests with the Ganga River Basin Authority, which has not given any such clearance. Unfortunately, the construction company and the contractors involved in the project have taken it is a go-ahead signal to resume work on the dams. It is the responsibility of the Environment Ministry to ensure that the work on these destructive dams should remain suspended till a final decision is taken by the Ganga River Basin Authority.