The work on Aulliya medium irrigation project in Khandwa of Madhya Pradesh has been stopped after the ministry of environment, forests and climate change (MoEFCC) declared it in violation of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) norms.
During its meeting on February 14, MP State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) – an agency of the MoEFCC - closed the case related to prior environment clearance for the project sought by the MP Water Resources Department (MPWRD) after finding that the project violated the EIA notification of 2006 by undertaking construction before getting the clearance.
The SEIAA probe into the matter came after the Madhya Pradesh High Court served a notice to the MoEFCC while hearing a petition of the people displaced by the project. The displaced people, supported by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), had objected to the illegal construction carried out by the water resources department without taking prior environment clearance for the project and not giving adequate compensation to the displaced persons.
The NBA has termed the decision of the ministry as a big win for the people hit by the Aulliya project.
Senior activist of Narmada Bachao Andolan, Alok Agrawal, said that about 600 tribal families are being affected by the project. According to the Environment Protection Act (EPA), 1985 and the EIA notification of 2006, construction work on such projects could not start without prior environmental clearance. The MP government applied for the prior environment clearance in 2017, but started the construction work without receiving the approval.
“The affected tribal families were not given rehabilitation benefits under Land Acquisition Act, 2013 and land of 48 affected families was submerged by filling water up to the crest level in the reservoir of the dam. When the state government did not heed to the issues of the displaced people, they filed in the petition in the HC, following which the ministry has initiated this action,” Agrawal said.
The activist further said that according to the July 2021 guidelines of the ministry, work on such ‘violation projects’ is stopped on priority. Also, action under section 15 and 19 of the EPA, 1985 is taken against the violators. The project authorities are allowed to file fresh applications for environment clearance, on which the MoEFCC will take a fresh call as to whether the project is to be allowed to proceed with penalty or scrapped.
“The ministry action in case of Aulliya project is a clear indication of illegal construction work by the MPWRD. The project affected people have demanded action against the officials involved in the matter and also that the sluice gates of the dam should be opened so that the submerged farms of the 48 families could be retrieved,” Agrawal said.