Guj, MP misguiding it, says SC-appointed panel

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New Delhi, Jul 28 (UNI) The Environment Ministry has raised a strong objection to the Gujarat and the Madhya Pradesh governments for ''misguiding'' it regarding the extent of submergence to be caused by raising height of the piers and overhead bridge which the Narmada Control Authority sought to construct as part of the Sardar Sarovar project.

The rift between the Ministry and the authorities of the two states has almost brought to a halt the functioning of the experts panel created by the Supreme Court-appointed Environmental Sub-group to examine the demand of the Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, sources in the Ministry told UNI.

The Environment Sub-group, which is chaired by the Secretary, Ministry of Environment&Forests, had been set up by the apex court under the Narmada Control Authority(NCA) to give at each stage of the construction of the dam environment clearance before further construction beyond 90 meters could be undertaken.

The Supreme Court in its judgement in the case had said that the Narmada Control Authority, will give the permission to raise the dam height beyond 90 meters after it obtained the clearances from the Relief and Rehabilitation Sub-group and the Environment Sub-group.

At the Sub-group's 45th meeting in April last, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh governments had requested the Secretary to allow raising the height of the dam, but the official did not agree.

They then sought the permission for raising the height of piers and overhead bridge, arguing that there would be no submergence due to that. However, when minutes of the meeting came, the Secretary of the Environment Ministry who chairs the Sub-group saw that the NCA officials had conceded to a submergence of 1.62 Mt.

The revelation has been taken serious note of by the Environment Ministry, and NCA authorities were taken to task by the officials at the 46th meeting of the Sub-group held last month.

They were asked to explain why the facts told to the Secretary were different from those given in the minutes of the meeting.

After the 46th meeting of the Sub-group held last month, the Ministry constituted a panel of experts to ensure that no step of the Narmada Control Authority was violative of the spirit of the directions given by the Supreme Court.

The panel is headed by Mr Devendra Pandey of the Forest Survey of India. Other members of the panel are L K Barshney, B P Das, AK Bhattacharya, Shekhar Singh and Pawan Kumar.

Its job is assessment of survey/studies/planning and implementation of the plans on environmental safeguard measures for Sardar Sarovar Project and Indira Sagar Project.

Now the NCA has written a letter to the Ministry requesting it to keep the panel in abeyance till ''the matter is reviewed by the Narmada Control Authority.'' The letter written by M K Sinha, Member(Environment and Rehabilitation) of the Authority is being seen as a delaying tactic by the respective state governments.

UNI NAZ PK RK1501

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