GoM's decision on dam has NGOs up in arms again

Professor G D Tripathi to fast unto death from 20 July

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Neha Sethi | July 16, 2010



The decision of the three-member group of ministers (GoM) to allow the Loharinag Pala hydroelectric project on Bhagirathi to continue with construction has the civil society up in arms against the ministry again.

Professor G D Tripathi, an environmental scientist, who had gone on a fast to protest the construction of this dam on one of the main tributaries of the Ganga has decided to resume his fast. He will fast unto death from 20 July and other members from the civil society will join him in stages.

In a meeting of the members of the civil society in the capital on Friday, the activists questioned the validity of the decision of the GoM. “The National River Ganga Basin Authority (NGRBA) was formed to take decisions on what will come up in the Ganga but these people have undermined us,” Ravi Chopra of the People’s Science Institute in Dehradun told Governance Now.

Chopra is one of the nine expert members in the authority who represent various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or civil society. The NGRBA’s chairman is the prime minister. Swami Avimukteshwaranad Saraswati, the Shankaracharya, who had in March offered the government the amount spent on the dam to stop construction of the dam, will lead a delegation to meet the chairman.

“We will ask Manmohan Singh that why he is doing illegal things,” Madhu Kishwar of the Manushi Sangathan told Governance Now. She said that the GoM has no constitutional authority and thus it should have been the authority which should have taken the decision.

Chopra said that the decision of the GoM is being forwarded to a standing committee of the NGRBA, which will take the final decision. “But I, being a part of the authority, have no idea who from NGRBA is a part of that standing committee. None of the nine experts are a part of it. I didn’t even know that a standing committee even existed,” he added.

The NGOs have also demanded that there should be a public audit of the Loharinag Pala dam coming up. “We want the authority to have a public audit and conduct public hearings before the construction of the dam begins,” Kishwar said.

“There is a meeting of the nine experts of the authority with Jairam Ramesh scheduled for 23 July,” said Chopra. He said that he believed that the government had used the expert members. “They call us when they want to and don’t call us when they don’t need us. I am clear that if the government doesn’t change (its stand on the dam), then I’ll get out of it (the authority),” Chopra added.

Jairam Ramesh, the environment and forests minister, during the GoM meet is believed to have said that in his heart he thinks that the dam should be closed but he needs to follow his head. He is also stated to have said that solar and wind are romantic things, it is thermal and hydel power which will be used to meet power needs of this country of a billion people.

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