The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Thursday ordered an interim stay on Telangana government’s Kaleshwaram lift irrigation project, pointing out that the state government did not have adequate environmental clearance.
Kaleshwaram is stated to be the costliest irrigation project taken up in the country with an estimated expenditure of Rs 80,500 crore.
The NGT stated that, “By an ad interim injunction, the respondents are restrained from carrying out any construction activities for the Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Scheme or any other activity like felling of trees, blasting and tunnelling in the forest areas in violation to Forest Conservation Act, until the mandatory statutory clearances including Environment and Forest clearances are granted.
“However, we grant liberty to the respondents to seek modification or clarification of this order, upon grant of such clearance,” the bench added.
The Telangana government was arguing that construction was only going on for supplying drinking water, as it did not require environmental clearances.
It added that it would take due permission while implementing the irrigation part of the project.
However, the petitioner alleged that the state was falsely showing pipelines laid for Mission Bhagiratha, which is a drinking water project.
The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by Mohammad Hayathuddin, a resident of Vemulaghat village, who alleged that the construction of the scheme had begun without environmental clearances.
The entire village Vemulaghat has been protesting for over 450 days, against the Mallannasagar reservoir, which is part of the Kaleshwaram project.
“They have changed the design of the project without permissions. The land requirement for the irrigation projects increased suddenly once the Panahita-Chevella was changed to Kaleshwaram project. The Mallannasagar reservoir, proposed with 1.5 tmcft, has increased to 50 tmcft. Around 3,200 acres of forest land was already damaged. Unable to bear the threats being faced by the farmers I decided to approach the NGT. Why should we be silent when the project is being constructed without permissions?" Hayatuddin told The Hindu.
Meanwhile, the Telangana government is planning to hit back.
“We will certainly appeal. Our legal team is examining the NGT order. After studying it, we will approach the Supreme Court,“ SK Joshi, special chief secretary , irrigation department, told TOI.
Speaking at Alair, Telangana irrigation minister T Harish Rao was quoted saying, "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."