497149-sarovarDaily News Analysis, Sept 1 2016, New Delhi: The environment sub-group (ESG) under the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) on Wednesday decided to not permit Gujarat government to lower the dam gates of Sardar Sarovar Dam for filling up water to a maximum level of 138.8m, members of the ESG informed. The environment sub-group, that met for the first time in six years, decided after discussions that fulfillment of environment safeguards need independent monitoring since there are discrepancies in the existing assessments. The Narmada Control Authority (NCA) is an executive agency set up under the final orders and decision of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal (NWDT) as a machinery for implementation of its directions and decision. NCA comprises of three sub-groups with one each of environment, resettlement and rehabilitation and hydromet.

As per the Supreme Court’s order of 2,000, after due approvals from sub-groups on environment and resettlement and rehabilitation, the NCA can permit raising the dam height. The SC had also mandated that due care should be take to follow environmental safeguards and resettlement and rehabilitation process during the dam’s construction. On June 12, 2014, the environment sub-group allowed the Gujarat government to construct spillway piers to its full height and bridge and installation of gates.

The environment sub-group consists of 17 members and three independent members. Shekhar Singh, an independent member said, “We discussed the issues regarding lack of independent assessments and it was decided that we should work towards starting active independent monitoring and there will be greater transparency as it future reports would be put up online. It was also decided to meet after four or five months to review progress, Singh told DNA.

Ahead of the meeting, Singh had written to Ajay Narayan Jha, chairman of the environment sub-group and secretary of the ministry of environment and forest expressing concerns about the lack of independent assessment. He had said that the last independent assessment happened in January 2011. “In that report they had determined that for all the environmental conditions the compliance was far behind the progress in the construction of the dam, in terms of the pari passu clause. Therefore, if any view is to be taken by the sub-group on the current status of compliance and its correlation to the construction progress, a fresh assessment needs to be carried out by a group of independent experts, set up by the MoEF&CC, which works in consultation with ESG members and other stakeholders,” Singh had said in his letter to Jha.

Activists said that they welcome independent monitoring. “There are issues pertaining to submergence of agricultural land and additional forest land. So we welcome independent monitoring and verification,” Madhuresh Kumar, national convenor, NAPM.

Web: http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-expert-body-on-narmada-shelves-decision-to-fill-up-sardar-sarovar-to-maximum-height-2250806