On Tuesday, the National Green Tribunal held that environmental clearance to Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project was granted ex post facto, after completion of substantial work, by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF & CC) “in violation of law”.
The Bench comprising Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, Judicial Member Justice S.P. Wangdi, and Expert Member Dr. Nagin Nanda observed that the accountability needs to be fixed and remedial measures are taken while directing the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to constitute a seven-member expert committee and suggest relief and rehabilitation measures to be adopted.
The above observations were made during the hearing of a petition filed by one Md. Hayath Udin, a resident of Siddipet district, who is also a farmer affected directly by the project. The petitioner contended to declare the EC granted to KLIP as invalid since substantial work was done by the State Government, project proponent, prior to filing an application with the Ministry for clearance
Subsequently, the Principal Bench of NGT asked the Ministry to constitute the expert committee within a month and it may complete its exercise within six months thereafter shouldering the responsibility of monitoring the panel work to the Secretary of MOEF & CC.
“We find that in spite of finding illegality in granting EC, it is neither possible nor desirable to undo what has happened, but accountability needs to be fixed and remedial measures are taken,” stated the bench.
“We are unable to accept the stand of the project proponent that primarily the project is for water supply and water management and that irrigation is subsidiary or incidental part of the project so as to hold that no EC was required prior to the execution of the project from 2008 to 2017,” it added.
Another plea was filed by Thummanapally Srinivas and others who had approached the NGT on the proposal and finalization of tenders for the expansion of the Kaleshwaram lift irrigation project without obtaining prior environmental clearance with an estimated cost of Rs 21,000 crore.