The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Tuesday directed the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to constitute a seven-member expert panel and suggest relief and rehabilitation measures to be adopted in Kaleshwaram lift irrigation project in Telangana.
The National Green Tribunal was hearing the plea of two petitioners who alleged that the construction of the project had begun without environmental and other statutory clearances. The NGT held that environmental clearance was granted to the Kaleshwaram lift irrigation project in Telangana in violation of legal requirement, and directed the MoEF to constitute a panel to assess the extent of damage caused and take up restoration measures.
The petitioners had sought a ban on non-forest activities such as felling of trees and blasting and tunnelling activities in the forest areas. The NGT ruled that Kaleshwaram project got environmental clearance “ex post facto” in violation of law.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said the stand of the project proponent that the project executed prior to the grant of environmental clearance (EC) is unrelated to irrigation is “patently untenable”.
“We are also unable to agree that the state did not proceed with the irrigation component in the project till the clearances were granted and only constructed components relating to supply of drinking water,” the tribunal said.
In October this year, the NGT had directed the Telangana government to respond to a letter by the Ministry of Jal Shakti to Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao asking not to proceed with expansion of Kaleshwaram lift irrigation project without submitting a detailed project report to Godavari River Management Board.
The project was built at an estimated cost of Rs 80,500 crore to provide 169 TMC ft (thousand million cubic feet) water to irrigate 45 lakh acres of land and 40 TMC ft water for drinking purposes. The project was inaugurated on June 21, 2019 by Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao and his Andhra Pradesh counterpart Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy and the then Chief Minister of Maharastra Devender Fadnavis.
The petitioners contended that Telangana government had proposed a major expansion with Rs 21,000 crore without waiting for proper execution of the Main Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project and finalised Tenders for the expansion of various components of Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project in April-May 2020.