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A Pact For Dam On Ganga: 1916

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  • The 1916 agreement's basic thrust and focus is on the 'Aviral Dhara' (continuous flow) of the river. This sentiment is of religious value and will be kept in mind.
  • The idea is to ensure that at least some part of the river waters flow naturally and uninterrupted by any hydel power structure or barrage right through. Such an arrangement will have to be incorporated in the design of every barrage or dam structure that does come up along the river in Uttarakhand
  • It was signed between the then British government, Princely states , Madan Mohan Malviya and others speaking on behalf of the 'Hindus'.
  • The agreement said that 1,000 cusecs of water would flow unfettered across the ghats of the city at the foothills at all times. At the time, no hydropower projects existed in what is now Uttarakhand.
  • This agreement found its mention in present government policy to allow unfettered flow of 1,000 cusecs specifically in three tributaries of the Ganga (Alaknanda, Bhagirathi and Mandakini) and the main stream.
  • This agreement arises when the Supreme Court, of its own volition, asked the government whether the dams in Uttarakhand had played a role in the tragedy of 2013 when thousands were killed in the flash floods in the Kedarnath valley. It asked an expert body to provide a report.
  • The expert body report said the dams had played a role in exacerbating the disaster. It asked for immediate ban on 24 projects in the pipeline, a perpetual ban on projects above the snowline and a comprehensive review of all the other projects before they were given a nod.
  • Since then the focus of both the court case and the policy of the government has changed. The court's focus has shifted to six particular hydroelectric projects and whether the government wants to clear these or not
  •  For this government has setup a committee on the issue of clearance.
  •  This committee contradicts the government policy on revival of pact on 1916.  It considered and dismissed it in two paragraphs saying the original 1916 agreement only refers to such water flow levels at Haridwar. The committee cleared five out of the six projects the court was focused on. This report too has been submitted to the court.
  • There are more than 60 other small and large dams already in the pipeline after this at various stages of development in Uttarakhand.


  •  When and how did the government decide that 1,000 cusecs of water in three tributaries of the Ganga, besides in the main stem, are adequate and that other tributaries should not even be discussed?
  •  Environmental flows and the dams on the upper Ganga basin decide not just the safety of the people of Uttarakhand, the ecology of the hills and the country's hydroelectric power policy , but also life in the entire riparian zone in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
  •  Government's desire to clean up the Ganga too depends on the flow of water in the river - how much sewage it can take without turning into a sewage canal naturally depends on how much fresh water it has to begin with.
  •  As of now, life of millions in the hills and the Gangetic plains has been left dependent on an ambiguous reading by the government of an agreement signed in 1916 that was merely meant to secure the flow of river at Haridwar ghats for religious bathing - that too 100 years ago. 
Dialing……mains(General Study 3: Infrastructure – Energy)

Question: Government of India submitted an affidavit in supreme court by endorsing a historical pact on ganga in 1916. Is it relevant in present context? Critically analyse.



Vishal Thakur By - Vishal Thakur
Posted On - 1/24/2016 12:00:00 AM

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