Transfer of water from Krishna sub-basin: How Maharashtra govt,  MoEF misled people of Marathwada

marathwadaBy Parineeta Dandekar*

On the June 24, 2015, the Union Ministry for Forests, Environment and Climate Change (MoEF for short) granted Environmental Clearance to Krishna Marathwada Lift Irrigation Scheme for diverting 23.66 TMC (Thousand Million Cubic Feet) water from Krishna sub-basin to Krishna 3 sub-basin of Krishna River Basin. The media has reported the development as a “Respite for Marathwada”. However, as South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) had written to the MoEF several times (click HERE and HERE for minutes of the Environmental Appraisal Committee or EAC where this project was discussed), this environmental clearance (EC) is based on non-existent water availability and a misleading Environmental Impact Assessment EIA (click HERE) by the Science and Technology Park, University of Pune.

The EC letter states that “project involves lifting 21 TMC water from Ujjani Reservoir”. This is nearly 40 per cent of Ujani’s live storage capacity (54 TMC) and there is no such surplus water available in Ujani for any such diversion as all of its water is already over-allocated. The Krishna Marathwada Project is a part of bigger Krishna Bhima Stabilisation scheme planning to transfer 63 TMC water to Ujani from far off places like Kolhapur. Only after this transfer is there a chance of diverting any water for Krishna Marathwada scheme. However, the Krishna Water Disputes Award Tribunal (KWDT), in its November 2013 verdict, has categorically rejected any water transfer for the Krishna Bhima Stabilisation Scheme.

The Government of Maharashtra is well-aware of all these happenings. The KWDT Cell of the Water Resource Department (WRD) of the Government of Maharashtra itself has stated that diversion for Krishna Bhima Stabilisation scheme has been rejected and that there is no availability for 21 TMC water from Ujani for Krishna Marathwada Project. The Secretary of Water Resources in a letter in 2009 had stated that Krishna Marathwada Scheme cannot be designed at 21 TMC water availability from Ujani, but has to be scaled down at 7 TMC only because of Tribunal considerations. Amazingly, there is no clarity about the source for this 7 TMC water either!

Despite all this, the WRD of Government of Maharashtra went ahead and started work on the Krishna Marathwada Lift Irrigation Scheme (KMLIS) for 23.66 TMC availability long before even applying for environment clearance and in violation of Environmental Protection Act and EIA notification of September 2006 and disrespecting letters from Governor’s office sent in 2009 (click HERE).

The current project consists of three Lift Irrigation Schemes (LIS) and work on all three has been started even before getting the EC. But very shockingly, the EIA of the project done by Science and Technology Park, University of Pune (click HERE) does not even mention how 23.66 TMC water will be secured, nor does it mention a word about 1068 hectares of land that is needed for LIS III, which is in Beed. The entire Section on Hydrology of the EIA (completed in August 2014) does not mention a word about LIS III, for which work started in 2010!

The EIA from Science and Technology Park is misleading

The EC letter also does not mention a word about LIS III in Ashti, Khuntephal (Beed), although it is an integral part of the project and although project affected people had written several times to the Ministry about this!

What is more, the project has been singled out by SIT Committee Report under the Chairperson ship of Dr Madhav Chitale as a “flawed project” and the SIT has recommended: “Detailed further investigation of this project by an independent committee and also action against officials”. The project does not have a water availability certificate for 23.66 TMC water. Even for a scaled down version of 7 TMC, There is no clarity where the water will come from.

In the absence of any clarity about water, the earlier government already acquired lands through private negotiations, issued tenders and spent over Rs 400 Crores on this project! The Krishna Marathwada project is littered with irregularities, absence of water availability, bad EIA and violations.

News Reports mention that WRD Minister of Maharashtra Shri. Girish Mahajan and Union Minister for Environment and Forests Prakash Javadekar followed up clearance for this project. Chief Minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis had promised that focus will be shifted from non-performing large Dams and Lift Irrigation Projects to small-scale projects and schemes like Jalyukta Shivar.

It is shocking that his government is pushing a project that is mired in irregularities, is based on a nonexistent Water availability and whose EIA is of an extremely poor quality. It is reported that in a meeting, he stated that he will ensure Clearance for this project. In the same meeting, the fact came to light that water availability for the project is only on paper! How can the government support such shoddy approach of the Water Resource Department?

Such unviable projects benefiting only contractors have been the reason why Maharashtra, despite spending over Rs 70,000 crore, could not register any increase in its irrigated area. The New government had promised to go to the roots of the Dam Scam. Why is it forgetting it promises in case of Krishna Marathwada Lift Irrigation Scheme?

The project is also misleading people of Marathwada, showing them dreams which cannot be materialized as there is no such water available for diversion. The project stands challenged in the High Court.

We urgently request the Government to take back all permissions given to Krishna Marathwada Scheme, undertake enquiry into the project not only from ACB, but also from technical experts on issues like water availability, flawed EIA, violations of EPA 1986 and EIA notification (2006), KWDT permissions, viability of transferring water from rivers like Warana and Panchaganga to Osmanabad and Beed.

The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests needs to take back the flawed EC urgently and take action against the EIA Agency. It is clear that the EC has been granted based on misleading EIA and information.

*With SANDRP. contact: parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com, mobile: 09860030742. Courtesy: https://sandrp.wordpress.com

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