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Ganga Water Flow Norms: Hydropower Company Takes Water Ministry to Court

Ganga Water Flow Norms: Hydropower Company Takes Water Ministry to Court

New Delhi: The Alaknanda Hydropower Company (AHC) has taken the Union water ministry and the Uttarakhand government to court over a 2018 notification that requires hydropower plants located on the Ganga’s tributaries to release more water than during previous years.

According to The Hindu, the GVK Power and Infrastructure Limited company, which runs the 330 MW project, has called the notification “financially detrimental” and has sought compensation for the losses it could accrue as a result of it. Though the case was filed in July, it has not been reported on, the newspaper said.

The 2018 notification, issued by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), a body under the Union water ministry, requires hydropower companies functioning on the Ganga’s tributaries to release more water. The notification specifies the “minimum environmental flows” to be maintained by the projects in the upper stretches of the Ganga – from its originating glaciers until Haridwar, during the dry, lean and high flow seasons.

All existing, under-construction and future projects would have to comply with the minimum environmental flow, the notification issued on October 9, 2018 says. For existing projects that did not meet the norms of these environmental flows, the order provides a buffer period of three years (ending in October 2021) ensure that the desired environmental flow norms are complied with.

To adhere to the norms, existing and under-construction projects would need to alter their design. According to reports, companies are reluctant to release water because it impedes power generation.

However, after the Central Water Commission, as the designated authority for supervision of regulation of flows, submitted a report to the NMCG in July 2019. It recommended that all existing projects have provisions for releasing the mandated e-flow and “structural modifications” to the project may not be required.

After considering the recommendations, the Centre decided in another notification that the “time period of three years allowed to the existing projects to ensure proper compliance of the mandated environmental flows [is] excessive and not necessary”. The compliance date was brought forward to December 2019 instead.

Alaknanda project’s suit

The AHC is located on the Alaknanda river, a major source of river water for the Ganga. The hydropower plant was built in 2014 as a “run-of-the-river project” to supply 12% of its generated energy to the Uttarakhand government for free. The remaining power generated is sold to the Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Limited.

The project’s contention is that it is required to release only 15% flows as “environmental flows”, citing an Uttarakhand high court order from June 2018. The counter-affidavit filed by the NMCG says that during May 15-21, 2019 only “5% of daily inflows are being released” by the project, according to The Hindu, when it should have been releasing 25%.

The body has also termed environmental flows as necessary for the health of the river. It also says that the minimum flow required has been computed by expert committees.

GVK group chairman G.V.K. Reddy told The Hindu that the matter is in court and “losses to the company have to be reimbursed by the state government (Uttarakhand) as this is a change in law”.

According to the newspaper, an NMCG official, on the condition of anonymity, said that the company has claimed losses of nearly Rs 4,000 crore. “We have had some meetings at the Prime Minister’s Office and the government is considering making good the losses. We will have to see how the case proceeds,” the official said.

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