NGT Restrains the Rayalaseema Lift Irrigation Project, Reasons That States Cannot Start the Irrigation Project Without Getting Environmental Clearance

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The National Green Tribunal (NGT), Southern Bench, vie an Order dated 29th October 2020, directed the Andhra Pradesh government not to proceed with the proposed Rayalaseema lift irrigation project (RLIP) without submitting the detailed project report (DPR) before the Krishna River Management Board (KRMB) as directed by the Union ministry of Jal Shakti. The Bench reasoned the same, as it would have an impact on the sharing of Krishna waters between Telangana state and Andhra Pradesh.

Brief Facts

The Applicant, Gavinolla Srinivas, questioned the validity of the Rayalaseema Lift Scheme that was launched by the State of Andhra Pradesh for tapping water from the Srisailam Project on the ground that it should not be preceded without getting Environmental Clearance (EC) and also without getting permission from the Krishna River Management Board (KRMB). This was stated to impact the sharing agreement of water from this project between the State of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

Arguments Made by the Appellant

The Appellant argued before the court that the Andhra Pradesh Government could not proceed with the work without getting Environmental Clearance (EC), as the project fell under irrigation project and also EIA Notification, 2006 will be applicable. The Appellant also argued that it was against the provisions of Section 84 of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014. The Andhra Pradesh Government had proposed to launch the scheme without getting approval from the KRMB Board. Furthermore, they stated that it will have a huge impact on the source of water available for the people of Telangana, and as such without conducting a proper study; the State could not proceed with the work.

Arguments Made by the Respondents

The Telangana State Government argued that the existing project passes through a wildlife sanctuary and some protected eco-sensitive zones. If there was any expansion by providing additional canals or widening the canal, it could affect those areas and further appraisal on those aspects would be required. They further argued that it could not be treated as a new project and such no permission from the KRMB Board is required. 

The Respondents further explained that there was no necessity for any Environmental Clearance (EC) as required under EIA Notification, 2006 for this project.

Analysis

It is pertinent to note that the Ministry of Jala Shakti had earlier opined that RLIP did not require environmental clearance because it was not a new one and did not involve addition in the cultivable command area (CCA). The change of stand was taken by the Union ministry of Jala Shakti after the Telangana State Government strongly objected to it.

Court’s Observation

After hearing the contentions from both sides, the Tribunal Bench headed by Justice K. Ramakrishna (Judicial member) and Sibal Dasgupta (Expert member), weighed the contentions raised by the Telangana state government.

The Bench observed that the RLIP involved building canals from Sangamithram to Muchumarri of about 4.5 km. The project would need evacuation of the canal for about 22 km from the pump house delivery system to the Srisailam Right Main Canal (SRMC). It concluded that though Andhra Pradesh was projecting it as a scheme to augment drinking water requirements for the drought-hit Rayalaseema, the purpose appeared to be to enhance the utility of the water for irrigation as well.  

It stated that there is a change in the methodology of drawing water and they want to enhance the capacity of the existing canals by providing additional canals/diversion canals and also by widening the existing canals.

Court’s Decision

While hearing a petition on the matter, the Bench stated that it prima facie found that there was a component of irrigation that was present in the project. These projects required prior Environmental Clearance (EC). Therefore, the Respondent was restrained from proceeding with the work without the Environmental Clearance (EC).

The Bench directed the parties to bear their respective costs in the application.

Click here to read the judgment.


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