Draft River Basin Bill should focus on downstream impact: NGOs



Ahead of the tabling of the Inter-State River Basin Management Bill 2018 in the forthcoming winter session of parliament, environmentalists here have said that special focus should be accorded to the issue of downstream impact of rivers, particularly in case of the rivers in the northeast India.

The Union Ministry of Water Resources recently released the draft of the bill for public comments. The Centre is likely to table the Bill in Parliament during the winter session slated for December.

"It is necessary to ensure that the downstream states do not suffer from unwanted adverse impact of river dams and other similar structures located in upstream states. In cases where such an impact cannot be avoided, efforts should be made to minimise the effect, which is agreeable to stakeholders," said a group of NGOs, which have moved the Union Water Resources Ministry recently.

The proposed River Basin Management Bill, 2018 seeks to set up 13 River Basin Authorities having a two-tier system consisting of a Governing Council and an Executive Board. According to the draft, the Chief Ministers of all the states under the particular basin will be members of the Executive Council.

The NGOs that took part in a multi-stakeholder consultation in Guwahati recently organised by Oxfam India include Aaranyak, North East Research and Social Work Networking (NERSWN), Peoples' Action for Development (PAD) and Trust for Change and Development.

The demand of the NGOs for focus on the downstream impact of the rivers assumes importance, particularly for Assam and other northeastern states. At least 10 persons died in flash floods in Lakhimpur district of Assam last year due to sudden release of water from a dam of Ranganadi hydro-electric project in the upper reaches of neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh.

"My suggestion is the river dam projects seeking clearance should be halted till the RBAs are set up and there should be a fresh process of seeking clearance of dam building as otherwise dam building process and river basin master plan will be conflicting to each other," said Partho Jyoti Das, an expert on water at Aaranyak.-IANS