Order of the National Green Tribunal regarding Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Scheme, Karimnagar, Telangana, 20/10/2020

  • 20/10/2020

Order of the National Green Tribunal in the matter of Md. Hayath Udin Vs Union of India & Others dated 20/10/2020.

The appeal has been preferred against order dated December 22, 2017 of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) granting Environmental Clearance (EC) for Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Scheme (KLIS) project in Karimnagar district of Telangana by Irrigation & Command Area Development (I and CAD) Department, Telangana.

Objections raised by the applicant (Mohammad Hayath Udin) against the KLIS project are the following:

1. The infrastructure was being constructed prior to applying for Environmental Clearance (EC). EC was granted in December 2017 but before that substantial work had already been undertaken

2. The project proponent wrongly claims that the project was not for lift irrigation but only for drinking water supply till grant of EC

3. The project underwent change by increase in capacity and inclusion of Mission Bhagiratha to provide drinking water to Hyderabad and certain villages of Telangana but no fresh scoping was done

4. There is discrepancy with regard to quantity of the forest land in the project

5. Final EIA report wrongly states that there is no national park for wildlife sanctuary within 10 km buffer

6. The project is Seismic Zone 2 and such site was not suitable for the project

7. Public hearing was not conducted as per procedure prescribed in the EIA Notification

8. It is further submitted that even after the grant of EC, the project proponent did not follow the EC conditions.

The NGT refused to accept the stand of the project proponent that KLIS was primarily meant for water supply and water management and that irrigation was subsidiary - thus no EC was required prior to execution of the project from 2008 to 2017.

The court noted that the project was predominantly for irrigation though water supply is also involved. Plea to the contrary is untenable. Thus, the EC has been granted ex post facto in violation of legal requirement for prior EC.

However, as the project has been completed the only issue is of remedial action and future precautions, the NGT said.

The NGT directed the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) to constitute a seven-member Expert Committee. It must assess the extent of damage caused in going ahead with the project without EC (from 2008 to 2017) and identify the restoration measures necessary. Relief and Rehabilitation measures adopted and required to be further adopted may also be looked into. The Expert Committee may also examine effective implementation of Environment Management Plan (EMP) earlier submitted by the project proponent based on which EC was granted and compliance of EC conditions.

The Expert Committee has to be constituted within one month and it has to complete its exercise within six months thereafter. The progress would be monitored by the Secretary, MoEF&CC.

The NGT also said that the decision for expansion taken by the Telangana government on October 6, 2019 without EC was not tenable. The stand of the state, that expansion of the project by extraction of 3 TMC/day instead of 2 TMC/day does not involve any infrastructural changes and therefore EC was not required, cannot be accepted. Extraction of more water certainly requires more storage capacity and also affects hydrology and riverine ecology of Godavari River.

The Minister of Jal Shakti vide letter dated August 7, 2020 addressed to the Chief Minister, Telangana had requested that the state should not proceed with the project without submitting detailed project reports (DPRs) to Godavari River Management Board (GRMB). Central Water Commission (CWC) had also stated that no project proposal with respect to expansion of the project had been submitted to it as required. The directions of the Central government are binding and unless challenged and set aside, the same has to be followed, the order added.