The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the state pollution control boards to ensure release of minimum water downstream by hydroelectric projects.

The tribunal in its order said that business or commercial interests cannot override the requirement of maintaining riverine ecology.

While hearing a plea filed by Himachal Pradesh resident Vijay Kumar, the NGT has directed compliance by all the hydroelectric projects, including Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, West Bengal and Jammu & Kashmir.

A Bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said that every hydroelectric project, irrespective of the date of its commission, is under an obligation to release minimum water downstream.

Kumar in its plea sought enforcement of the requirement of releasing minimum water downstream by the hydroelectric projects in that state.

This is a mandate of ‘sustainable development,’ which is a part of the right to life, the Bench said.

Environmental flow describes the quantity, timing and quality of water flows required to sustain freshwater and estuarine ecosystems, and the human livelihoods and wellbeing that depend on these ecosystems.

The green plan rejected the submission of the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) seeking exemption from releasing water to maintain 15 per cent e-flow (the quantity and timing of water that is essential for the river to perform its ecological functions) during the lean period.

“Technical and commercial limitations cannot be a ground to ignore the mandate of law. No business or commercial interest can override the requirement of maintaining riverine ecology,” said the NGT.

The NGT observed that the Ministry of Jal Shakti has not filed any report even though a period of nine months has passed since its direction.

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