Hyderabad: In a major setback to the Kaleswaram lift irrigation scheme and the state government, the National Green Tribunal at Delhi on Thursday granted a stay on the ongoing construction work till further orders.
A two-member bench headed by Justice Jawad Rahim issued the interim order while hearing an application by Mr Hayathuddin, who said the state government was constructing the Kaleswaram project without environmental clearances.
The bench ordered that all ongoing works be stopped, including excavating, tunnelling, canalling, blasting and other allied construction activities, until all statutory compliances and clearances required for such a project are obtained.
Mr Sanjay Upadhya, counsel for the petitioner, told the bench that the state government had claimed that the project was a drinking water project (which does not require environmental clearances) by wrongly showing pipelines laid for Mission Bhagiratha (which is a drinking water project).
He said that though the state government claimed that no forest land had been used for the project, hundreds of acres of forest land had in fact been illegally cleared and trees illegally felled.
Mr Upadhya said that large-scale construction activities were being carried out all over without any environmental clearances being obtained.
He alleged that the state government was hiding the fact that a major crocodile nesting hub and sanctuary was being submerged for the construction of the irrigation scheme.
Counsel appearing for the TS government urged the bench to suspend the implementation of the stay order for three days to permit them to get the required clearances from the Centre.
Refusing this request, the bench made it clear that their interim order would be implemented with immediate effect and any modification can be sought only after obtaining the clearances.
When contacted, state government sources said the interim orders will be studied and an official reaction given on Friday. Sources did admit that the ongoing work will have to be halted temporarily under various packages.
They said that since clearances for Stage-1 had been obtained from the forest department, the environmental impact studies and other associated issues raised by the NGT will be addressed in a proper manner and hopefully all clearances will be obtained within three months.
Telangana to move SC on tribunal stay
The TS government has decided to challenge the stay orders issued by the National Green Tribunal stalling the Kaleswaram project works till all forest and environmental clearances are obtained, in the Supreme Court.
Speaking at Alair, major irrigation minister T. Harish Rao said “It is a temporary setback for the project. We will overcome the hurdle by preferring an appeal in the Supreme Court and we hope justice will prevail,” Mr Harish Rao said.
He said the Kaleswaram project was part of the Pranahita project taken up by the previous Congress government and blamed it for failing to obtain the necessary clearances. “The TRS government held consultations with the Maharashtra government and entered into an inter-state agreement,” he said.
He said Congress leaders were deriving “sadistic pleasure” after the NGT stayed the work “as they do not want the project to be completed in record time.”
In a related development, Kaleswaram project chief engineer B. Hariram said environmental impact assessment had been completed in all districts including the affected areas of Maharashtra. The government will submit the detailed report and obtain clearances.
He said Stage-1 forest clearances had already been obtained by the state government. He said though the TS government had argued before the NGT that only the drinking water component was being executed at the Kaleswaram project since it was tagged to Mission Bhagiratha but the Tribunal had ordered a stay.