The 1,620-km long NW-1 is a one of the flagship projects of the NDA government
To resolve their differences over the question of environmental clearance for dredging River Ganga as part of National Waterway-I (NW-I), the Ministry of Environment and Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) and Shipping Ministry have decided to refer the matter to Law Ministry, top officials of the environment ministry confirmed.
The decision to refer the issue to the law ministry was arrived at "mutually" after a meeting between Union Minister of Shipping Nitin Gadkari and Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Dr Harsh Vardhan.
The meeting between the two ministers happened late last month and during the meeting, Gadkari contested MoEF&CC's view that maintenance dredging for inland waterway navigation requires environmental clearance (EC). Environment Secretary CK Mishra said that MoEF&CC has not disagreed with the view right now.
"It was mutually agreed that we will examine this issue afresh. It has now been referred to the law ministry and we will proceed accordingly," CK Mishra told DNA.
The meeting of the two ministers comes in the backdrop of MoEF&CC's letter to Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) in June that maintenance dredging for inland waterway navigation is not exempt from environmental clearance. The ministry had also said that as per recommendations of an expert committee, the EIA notification should be amended to include inland waterways, jetties and multi-modal terminals under the activities that need a prior EC.
In its reply, the Shipping Ministry and IWAI had told MoEF&CC that the EIA notification does not cover maintenance dredging. It had also said that it was carrying out maintenance dredging to keep a minimum depth of three metres for navigation and not capital dredging which involves touching the river bed. The matter was also discussed before a Committee of Secretaries in the Cabinet Secretariat prior to the meeting between Gadkari and Harsh Vardhan.
Further, the expert committee's recommendation, to amend EIA notification, has not been accepted or rejected by the ministry, Mishra added. "That is a thing that we need to look at subsequently," he said.
The 1,620-km long NW-1 is a one of the flagship projects of the Narendra Modi-led government and is being funded Centre and World Bank and the estimated cost is Rs.5369.18 crore. The project proposes to build multi-modal terminals at Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, Sahibganj, Bihar and Haldia in West Bengal. It will also involve roll-on roll-off (Ro-Ro) ferry passenger services. Currently, cement, clinkers and coal is being transported on 300-600 ton vessels and work on Haldia terminal will begin soon the as environment ministry has given environmental clearance for its construction.