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Press Release – Case against Garudeshwar Weir

PRESS RELEASE

DATE: 19 June 2014

Case against (Being set up about 12 kms. downstream of the Sardar Sarovar Dam in Narmada River.) in the ‘National Green Tribunal’ ().

  • “… no project proposal regarding Garudeshwar Weir at Garudeshwar Village, District Narmada of Gujarat has been received in this Ministry.” – Ministry of Environment and Forest.
  • “… I am filing this affidavit only for the limited purpose as aforesaid, I am not dealing with the application parawise at this stage nor am I giving elaborate details which would show that construction of Garudeshwar Weir is strictly in conformity with law.”  – Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL)
  • It is now clear that SSNNL has no documents to show and prove that the construction of Garudeshwar Weir is going on as per law.

In this application before NGT, filed in January 2014, after more than four months, by now the replies have been filed by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, Narmada Control Authority and Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited. None of the respondents have denied our contention that: 1. There has never been an environment and social impact assessment of the Garudeshwar weir, nor is there any environment and social management plan. 2 There has never been any public consultation on the issue of Garudeshwar Dam 3. The Garudeshwar Dam requires statutory clearances from Environment Sub Group, Rehabilitation Sub Group of Narmada Control Authority and also the NCA itself, but such clearances have not been taken.

In view of this, the case of the petition that the work on Garudeshwar Dam now going on is illegal and should immediately stop, till all the necessary statutory clearances and informed consultation process should be completed.

MOEF says please Excuse us! The Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) in their reply filed before the NGT (National Green Tribunal) on 29 May 2014 in response to our Application No. 10/2014 (WZ) clearly states “However, it is submitted that no project proposal regarding Garudeshwar Weir at Garudeshwar Village, District Narmada of Gujarat has been received in this Ministry.”

The MoEF has thus clarified that at no point of time the construction of Garudeshwar Weir had come before them for environment clearance.

The MoEF implicitly agrees with our contention that Garudeshwar Dam is a project in which no impact assessment was available before the Environment Ministry at any stage. This implies that the affected villages at the Weir were neither surveyed nor the environmental and social impacts were never known or mitigation and management plans prepared, nor were there any consultations. The impact assessment of Garudeshwar Dam was not part of the studies submitted by Gujarat to MoEF before the 1987 environment clearance of SSP. Thus environment clearance for Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) cannot be construed as clearance for Garudeshwar Weir.

The MoEF is not denying the contents of letter dated 24 March 2013 written by Mr. Shekhar Singh, an independent member of Environment Sub Group of Narmada Control Authority (this is a statutory body and clearance from this body is necessary before taking up construction for SSP at every stage, Copy of the letter is at the bottom of the Press Release) and letters dated 26 & 28 October 2013 of Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti and villagers. The MoEF only stated in their affidavits, “That with regard to the contents of paragraph-5 (f) & (g), it is submitted that copies of the letter dated 24.3.2013 by Mr. Shekhar Singh, Member, ESG, Narmada Control Authority and letter dated 26.10.2013 by Applicants could not be traced in the Ministry. Therefore, no responses were made on the subject.”

It is well spell out in Supreme Court order dated 18 October, 2000 in the case of Narmada Bachao Andolan v/s Union of India and others that the environment scheme for Narmada Projects, the approval of the Environment Sub-Group (ESG) and Rehabilitation & Resettlement Sub-Group (RSG) of Narmada Control Authority (NCA) are necessary at each stage of project construction. Without such explicit approvals, the construction of any component of the project cannot be taken up. Since construction of Garudeshwar Weir has not been approved by the ESG and RSG of NCA at any stage, such construction is illegal and should be stopped.

The MoEF in its affidavit at the end states “As per contents of the petition, MoEF is not having any role to play in the present petition. Therefore, MoEF may not be made a party in the present Petition.”

But MoEF is an environmental regulator of India which is responsible for the protection of environment and forest in general and the secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forest is also a chairman of Environment Sub Group of Narmada Control Authority. MoEF cannot shirk its responsibility and it is shocking to see MoEF shirking its responsibility.

The NCA’s legally untenable reply: The Executive Engineer of Narmada Control Authority filed a reply on behalf of the chairman of Environment and Rehabilitation Sub Groups of Narmada Control Authority, the chairman of Narmada Control Authority, Secretary of Union Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, and also Secretary of Union Ministry of Water Resources! This is clearly a legally untenable act. The Executive Engineer of Narmada Control Authority does not have legal authority and mandate to file joint reply on behalf of these bodies which have very specific and different roles. Clubbing them in one reply is not only be violation of cause of environment, rehabilitation, water resources development and independent & statutory groups and authorities, but would also do disservice of the interests these authorities and ministries are supposed to protect. This affidavit is also in violation of the basic principle of judicial process and hence should be rejected.

The reply is nowhere disputing our contention that social or environmental impact assessment of the construction of Garudeshwar weir has not been done at any stage.

The reply is also not disputing our contention that no participatory decision making process has been followed before starting the construction of Garudeshwar weir, involving the affected people and other interest groups. The reply is also not disputing our contention that at no stage have the expressed permission of the environment sub group, rehabilitation sub group, participating states have been taken for the construction of Garudeshwar weir. Not doing any of these is also in violation of the Supreme Court order dated 18 October 2000 in the case of Narmada Bachao Andolan v/s Union of India and others, which the authorities are extensively quoting.

In fact the reply is so callous that it does not even bother to state what the impacts of the Garudeshwar Dam would be. The reply does not go into merits of the issues about impacts of Garudeshwar Dam and what has been done about that. It only contends that the application should be dismissed on procedural aspects and just to contend this, they have taken more than four months, which is clearly an abuse of the time given to them.

If  indeed  any social and environmental impact assessment of Garudeshwar Dam has been done, or authorities have taken and/or expressed and specific permission of the Environment Sub Group, Rehabilitation Sub Groups of Narmada Control Authority and Narmada Control Authority itself, than they might have produced the required impact assessments and evidence of expressed and specific permissions in that regard.

Taking up construction of the Garudeshwar weir is also in violation of the due process, including that of the Supreme Court order on which they are relaying.

The chief secretary of Sate of Gujarat had yet not filed any reply in the case.

The SSNNL reply: The reply filed by Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) after taking more than four months is vague; SSNNL has tried its best to avoid addressing the basic crucial issue of the furnishing the mandated environmental impact assessment and environment clearance of Garudeshwar Weir.

The SSNNL person in reply states “… I am filing this affidavit only for the limited purpose as aforesaid, I am not dealing with the application parawise at this stage nor am I giving elaborate details which would show that construction of Garudeshwar Weir is strictly in conformity with law.” By stating “… nor am I giving elaborate details which would show that construction of Garudeshwar Weir is strictly in conformity with law”, SSNNL reply makes it crystal clear that it does not have documents to show and prove that the construction of Garudeshwar Weir is going on as per law. It also does not have documents to show that it obtained the necessary environment clearance from the concerned authority.

The SSNNL in its reply further states “At the outset, I beg to raise the following preliminary objections as regards the maintainability of the present application under the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 which is purported to have been filed under Section 18(1) read with Section 14 and 15 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010. I respectfully pray that the below mentioned preliminary objections be decided first.”

This is a ploy adopted by the SSNNL to delay the case and continue with the illegal construction work to defeat the process of justice.

Our Response: We had filed our affidavits in rejoinder in response to all the affidavits filed by the authorities and raised above mentioned issues in our affidavits and demanded that the irreversible nature of work carried out by SSNNL and considering that none of the concerned authorities have been able to produce either impact assessment or environment clearance obtained from Ministry of Environment and Forest and from Environment Sub Group and R&R Sub Group of Narmada Control Authority, the NGT should immediately order stoppage of work. (Copies of our rejoinders are attached)

NGT order on May 29: 29 May 2014 NGT order states: “We have heard learned Counsel.

The Advocate General for State of Gujarat would submit that after completion of pleadings, it would be appropriate to take up the matter for final hearing.

Learned Counsel Mr. Mihir Desai, would submit that instead of piecemeal hearing the entire Application may be heard.

We deem it proper to take up the hearing in one go, instead of dealing with preliminary objection and going ahead with the hearing in piecemeal manner.

The reason is not far to seek.

The parties are directed to complete the pleadings and exchange the affidavits, rejoinders, sur-rejoinders, whatsoever it may be within period of four (4) weeks hereafter.

Stand over to 24th July, 2014.”

We hope that the concerned authorities will not ask for more time and justice will prevail.

Rohit Prajapati        Lakhan Musafir

Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti

C1 17A DDA Flats, Munirka, New Delhi 110067

March 24, 2013

To

Dr V Rajagoplan, the Chairman,

Environment Sub Group of Narmada Control Authority

& Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, New Delhi

 

Sub: Environment and social impacts of Garudeshwar weir as part of Sardar Sarovar Project on Narmada River

Dear Dr Rajagopalan,

I am writing to you in my capacity as a member of the Environmental Sub Group (ESG) of Narmada Control Authority (NCA) to draw your attention to the captioned issue. As you are aware, the ESG is mandated to look into environment aspects of all the components of the Sardar Sarovar Project.

Garudeshwar weir, to be built 12 km downstream of the SSP dam with a live storage capacity of 32.9 Million Cubic Meters is a component of the Sardar Sarovar Project, as was envisaged by the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award of 1979. However, as far as I recollect, the environmental and social impacts of construction and operation of Garudeshwar weir (GW) have never been brought before the ESG of NCA.

In my estimation, the construction and operation of the GW will have significant social and environmental impacts, since it will entail a reservoir of about 12 km in length and unknown width and submergence area. The weir will have the potential of affecting the fisheries in the immediately surrounding areas and also of affecting the downstream river and its biodiversity, and other related aspects. This is especially because the weir will control the flow of water and silt downstream.

However, I do not know whether there has been a comprehensive assessment of the environmental and social impacts of the GW and its contribution to the cumulative impact of all the projects and activities in the area. And if there has been, I do not believe that this has been put up to the ESG for its approval.

Despite all this, I learn from the Annual Report of the Sardar Sarovar Construction Advisory Committee for the year 2011-12 (http://sscac.gov.in/AnnualReport2011-12.pdf, see particularly page 54-55) that it was decided in the 79th meeting of SSCAC on March 16, 2012 that: “EVALUATION OF BIDS FOR CONSTRUCTION OF GARUDESHWAR WEIR Committee decided to approve the recommendation of the PSC to accord approval of the revised cost estimates of Garudeshwar Weir amounting to Rs 438.18 crores .It further decided to award the work of construction of Garudeshwar Weir as recommended by the PSC in its 103rd meeting to the lowest bidder M/s. Rithwik Project Pvt. Ltd., Hyderabad amounting to Rs.299,43,36,391.50 (23.0884% below the estimate) for construction of  Garudeshwar Weir subject to the condition that an additional performance guarantee for the difference equivalent to estimated amount and quoted amount i.e. Rs.7.0 Crores is to be obtained from the bidder prior to issuance of work order towards lower rate for gate works, which shall be released only after the completion of the entire gate work. The work to be taken up by GOG in compliance of all statutory clearances.

“The Committee accordingly directed GOG to take further follow up actions.”

I understand that subsequent to this decision, the work of construction of the GW has been started on the ground.

If this is correct, I find this problematic as ESG has not yet cleared the construction of this weir. Under the circumstance, I urge you to:

1. Ask the Government of Gujarat (GoG) to immediately stop construction of the GW. All other activities related to the GW should also be stopped.

2. Ask GOG/ SSNNL to submit the full feasibility report, environment and social impact assessment report including impacts during construction and operation of the GW to the ESG and seek clearance of the ESG for this work.

3. Ask GOG not to start any work in this regard till the ESG clears this.

I look forward to an early response.

With regards,

Yours Sincerely,

 

Shekhar Singh, Member, ESG of NCA, shekharsingh@gmail.com

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