Minimum water downstream must be released by hydroelectric projects: NGT

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said every Hydro-Electric Project (HEP) irrespective of the date of its commission, is under an obligation to release minimum water downstream.


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The National Green Tribunal has directed the state pollution control board to ensure the release of minimum water downstream by hydroelectric projects, stating that the business or commercial interests cannot override the requirement of maintaining riverine ecology.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said every Hydro-Electric Project (HEP) irrespective of the date of its commission, is under an obligation to release minimum water downstream.

“This is a mandate of ‘Sustainable Development’ which is part of the right to life. Accordingly, the tribunal directed compliance by all the Hydro-Electric Projects (HEPs), including those in states of Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, West Bengal (North Region), Assam and Jammu & Kashmir,” the bench stated.

Environmental flow describes the quantity, timing, and quality of water flows required to sustain freshwater and estuarine ecosystems and the human livelihoods and wellbeing that depend on these ecosystems.

The tribunal disposed of the submission of the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation, which sought exemption from releasing water to maintain 15 percent e-flow (the quantity and timing of water that is essential for the river to perform its ecological functions) during the lean period.

“We do not find any substance in this submission. The mandate of ‘Sustainable Development’ has to be complied. We do not see any hurdle in doing so. Whatever changes are required for the purpose can certainly be done,” the bench stated.

“Technical and/or commercial limitations cannot be a ground to ignore the mandate of law. No business or commercial interest can override the requirement of maintaining riverine ecology,” it added. The green panel noted that the Ministry of Jal Shakti has not filed any report even though a period of nine months has passed since its direction.state

The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by Himachal Pradesh resident Vijay Kumar who sought enforcement of the requirement of releasing minimum water downstream by the HEPs in the state.

First Published:Jan. 12, 2021, 9:36 a.m.

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