MoEF keeps Kalasa-Banduri clearance in ‘abeyance’

MoEF keeps Kalasa-Banduri clearance in ‘abeyance’

In a flip flop, the Union Ministry for Environment and Forests on Wednesday wrote to the Karnataka government, stating that a letter issued by the Central ministry giving a green clearance to the Kalasa-Banduri project has been kept in abeyance.

The communication from the Central ministry, which could prove to be a setback for the ambitious Rs 841-crore dam project across the Mahadayi river, comes at a time when the Goa government is stepping up pressure on the MoEF, claiming the project, if allowed, would cause “ecological devastation” in the tiny coastal state. 

“Based on facts made available subsequently to this Ministry it is observed that applications for clarification of the Award of the Mahadayi Water Dispute Tribunal dated August 14, filed by the Governments of Goa and Karnataka are still pending,” the letter written by MoEF deputy director Mohit Saxena to the Chief Engineer Karnataka Neeravari Nigam Limited reads. 

“The (Tribunal) Award has also been challenged by the states of Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra before the Supreme Court. In SLP filed by the state of Goa, the Supreme Court has issued notice to the state of Karnataka. Pending resolution of these cases relating to the matter, the letter issued earlier by this Ministry is hereby kept in abeyance,” it also says. 

Reacting to the development, the Congress said that the BJP used the Kalasa-Banduri issue for political gain during the recently concluded Karnataka Assembly bypolls, in which the saffron party fared well. 

“The stand of the Congress party that BJP used the letter to get political benefit during recently concluded Karnataka bypolls stands vindicated now. The MoEF’s stand now that the letter issued to Karnataka is kept in abeyance needs to be examined cautiously. This can be another act by the Ministry of Environment and Forest to mislead the people of Goa,” Leader of Opposition Digambar Kamat told DH.

The Leader of Opposition also demanded a probe into how the “illegal” green clearance (which is now kept in abeyance) was given to the project conveniently two months before the Karnataka bypoll. 

The two states are already battling out the dispute over the sharing of the Mahadayi river in the Supreme Court, after both parties expressed reservations about the award given by the Mahadayi inter-state water dispute tribunal last year.

The Mahadayi river originates in Karnataka and meets the Arabian Sea near Panaji in Goa, while briefly flowing through Maharashtra.The Mahadayi tribunal, in August 2018, allotted 13.42 tmcft (including 3.9 TMC for diversion into the depleted Malaprabha river basin) to Karnataka and 1.33 tmcft to Maharashtra.  

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