The National Green Tribunal, the eastern zone branch, Kolkata has issued show-cause notices to the centre and the State government on the alleged non-compliance of environment and social impact assessment for the Rs 892 crore worth mega drinking water project in Odisha’s Kendrapara district.
Acting on a petition moved by Kshitish Kumar Singh, a division bench of NGT comprising Justice Amit Sthalekar and judicial member Saibal Dasgupta issued notices to central and State government agencies returnable within four weeks by ruling that ‘the matter requires consideration’.
“The affidavit filed before the tribunal by the Principal Secretary, government of Odisha’s water resources tribunal has misled the tribunal as well as the people. The Environmental Impact Assessment study in the mega drinking water project is not done at all as it had been earlier stated by the government agencies’ ‘, the petitioner’s counsel Anshuman Nayak apprised the NGT.
Further, the monitoring committee for the Bhitarkanika National Park eco-sensitive zone was constituted without a proper quorum as it had been envisaged in a 2015 notification by the Central Government. The monitoring committee held its meeting on 15 December 2020 in which it was decided to go ahead with the project based on the Environment Impact Assessment report, the counsel Nayak said adding that the government’s posture was misleading as the project was carried out despite massive public protest without proper EIA report.
The eco-sensitive monitoring committee reported that a study on Environment and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) was conducted by the Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad prior to the commencement of the project work. However, the IIT panel had never visited the site and the study report was based on secondary data only.
The study was based on secondary data and no physical/environmental study was conducted related to the ecosystem of the area concerned, the petitioner’s counsel Nayak informed the NGT bench.
It may be recalled here that the Rs 892 crore Buxi Jagabandhu Assured Water Supply to Habitations (BASUDHA) water project by diverting water of Kharasrota River in Rajkanika block of Kendrapara had evoked angry protests across Kendrapara district for the past two months. As a precautionary measure, prohibitory orders had been enforced in Balakati, Bharigada and Barunadiha panchayats under Rajkanika block till October 8.
The project will provide safe drinking water to villages in the Bhadrak district where the groundwater table is reported to be heavily salinated. The project requires 105 million litre per day and less than 4 per cent of water inflow of the river will be diverted for the mega project, the government officials however claim.
On the other hand, conservationists apprehend that the water level will fall drastically due to the project and it will adversely affect the farming and ecology of the nearby Bhitarkanika National Park, which is home to the country’s second-largest mangrove cover, he said.