A writ Petition 724/1994 with the title “and Quiet Flows the Maily Yamuna” was filed in the Supreme Court during Sept. 2002 by Mr. Ranjit Kumar, Sr. Advocate (Amicus Curiae) quoting the speech of Hon’ble President of India dated 14th August 2002 where need for networking of Rivers had been mentioned and prayed for appropriate directions. The Supreme Court directed to treat this issue as an independent Public Interest Litigation (PIL) Writ Petition (Civil) No. 512 of 2002 with cause title : “Networking of Rivers” and directed centre and states to respond.
In the matter of above PIL on 31st October, 2002 the Court made the following order:
Pursuant to the notice issued by this Court to all the States and the Union Territories in relation to the inter-linking of the rivers, an affidavit has been filed by the Union of India and also by the State of Tamil Nadu. No other State or Union Territory has filed any affidavit and the presumption, therefore, clearly is that they do not oppose the prayer made in this writ petition and it must be regarded that there is a consensus amongst all of them that there should be inter-linking of rivers in India.
In the counter affidavit filed on behalf of the Union of India, it has, inter-alia, been stated that after Rao Committee's Report was received, the Government of India has been studying and planning for inter-linking of rivers for over two decades. It is also mentioned in this affidavit that the Ministry of Water Resources had made a representation on 5th October, 2002 before the Prime Minister on inter-linking of rivers and in that presentation the Deputy Prime Minister and other senior Ministers and officers were also present. It was suggested that a High Level Task Force can be formed which will go into the modalities for bringing consensus among the States. This affidavit further states that the presentation was also made to the President of India on 16th October, 2002 which also shows interest of the President of India in this project and it is in view of his broadcast to the nation on the eve of the Independence Day where emphasis was laid on inter-linking of rivers that has given rise to the filing of the present petition.
Learned Attorney General states that a High Powered Task Force, as referred in the Affidavit of the Union of India, has not yet been formed and by the next date of hearing he should be in a position to inform this Court with regard to the formation of the said task force as well as the decision of the said Force. The Union of India has accepted the concept of inter-linking of rivers and in the affidavit spelt out the benefits which will annure the entire project has been completed.
The State of Tamil Nadu is the only State which has responded to the notice issued by this Court and filed an affidavit. The said State also supports inter-linking of rivers and in its affidavit has prayed that a direction be issued to the Union of India for constituting a High Powered Committee in order to see that the project is completed in time schedule. Along with affidavit the prospective plan for implementation of inter-basin water transfer proposals prepared by the National Water Development Agency in May, 2000 has been placed on record. We are distressed to note that milestone for the perspective plan indicated in the report of the Agency shows that even though the Pre-Feasibility Reports regarding the Peninsular & Himalayan projects are already completed, the completion of the link projects ultimately will be by the year 2035 in respect of Peninsular Link Project and 2043 regarding Himalayan Link Project.
It is difficult to appreciate that in this country with all the resources available to it, there will be a further delay of 43 years for completion of the project to which no State has any objection and whose necessity and desirability is recognised and acknowledged by the Union of India. The project will not only give relief to the drought prone areas but will also be an effective flood control measure and would be a form of water harvesting which is being rightly propagated by the Union of India and all the State.
Learned Attorney General states that a more realistic view will be taken and a revised programme on completion would be drawn up and be presented to the Court. We do expect that the programme when drawn up would try and ensure that the link projects are completed within a reasonable time of not more than ten years. We say so because recently the National Highways Projects have been undertaken and the same is nearing completion and the inter-linking of the rivers is complimentary to the state highway and the water ways which are constructed will be of immense benefit to the country as a whole.
The report of the National Water Development Agency refers to negotiations and signing of agreements. This aspect is also adverted to by the Union of India in its affidavit when it mentioned that consent of all the States affected by the Inter-linking of the rivers has to be obtained. Learned Attorney General would like to consider this aspect as it is contended by Mr. Ranjit Kumar that if a legislation under Entry 56 list I of the Constitution is made, the need for the consent would not arise and the Centre would be in a position to undertake the project and complete the same within a reasonable period of time.
It is not open to this Court to issue any direction to the Parliament to legislate but the Attorney General submits that the Government will consider this aspect and, if so advised, will bring an appropriate legislation.
Mr. Ranjit Kumar, learned amicus has drawn our attention to River Board Act, 1956 which has been enacted by the Parliament. Learned Attorney General would look into this in order to examine whether any further piece of legislation is necessary for bringing about the inter-linking of the rivers.
The parties are at liberty to file in Court any reports or papers containing studies in respect of the said project. To come up for further orders on 16th December, 2002.
Upon hearing counsel on 16th December, 2002 the Court made the following order:
Learned Attorney General has brought to our notice resolution dated 13.12.2002 passed by Ministry of Water Resources, Government of India, inter alia, stating that National Water Development Agency has, after carrying out detailed studies and investigations for preparation of feasibility reports identified 30 links and prepared feasibility reports of six such links. It also notices that various basin States have expressed divergent views about the studies and feasibility reports prepared by the said Agency and with a view to bringing out a consensus among the States and provide guidance on norms of appraisal of individual projects and modalities for project funding etc. the Central Government has set up a Task Force details whereof are given in paras 3 & 4 of the resolution. Para 5 sets out the terms of reference of the said Task Force and para 8 sets out the time table for achieving the goal of inter-linking of rivers by the end of 2016. Mr.Ranjit Kumar, learned amicus curiae, prays for a short adjournment for filing response thereto. List on 20th January, 2003.
Upon hearing counsel on 20th January, 2003 Court made the following order: It would be expedient if the matter is adjourned by about three months so that the Court is in a position to know as to what progress has been made in the matter. List the matter in the Ist weeks of May, 2003.
Upon hearing the case on 5th May, 2003, the Hon'ble Supreme Court made the following order:
Pursuant to order dated 20th January, 2003, an affidavit dated 5th May, 2003 has been filed by Mr.B P Pandey, Deputy Commissioner, Ministry of Water Resources, Government of India, annexing thereto the resolution dated 13.12.2002 constituting a Task Force, time table for interlinking of rivers, other resolutions nominating part time and full time members of the Task Force and few other documents. It seems that in last about four months three meetings of Task Force have been held on 6th January, 2003, 27th March, 2003 and 28th April, 2003. In the last meeting the first Action Plan as per Government Resolution was considered and adopted. Now as per Action Plan-I the schedule for implementation is 10 years from the start. It stipulates that the work on the links can be started from 2007. It is envisaged to be completed by say end of 2016. Further it envisages that the group of Task Force of interlinking rivers will examine the two schedules and is expected to arrive at a reasonable and predicable implementation schedule in due course. According to Action Plan -I the said Task Force has laid emphasis on demonstrative value of starting work on a link or two, as soon as possible. The process of preparation of Detailed Project Report for an inter basin link need to cover also, Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment, Environmental Management Plan and R&R Plan for project affection persons. We find no substance in the apprehension that the Task Force will not implement the law. We have also no doubt that in case the other experts in the field provide necessary inputs to the Task Force, it will give it due consideration the same deserves. For the present, we would direct posting of the matter after six months.
Upon hearing the case on 10th Nov, 2003, the Hon'ble Supreme Court made the following order:
Union of India is directed to file an affidavit placing on record up-to-date progress in the matter within a period of six weeks. List the matters thereafter.
Upon hearing the case on 6th Jan, 2004, the Hon'ble Supreme Court made the following order:
The Task Force of Interlinking of Rivers has filed a Progress Report which deals with various aspects. It, inter alia, mentions that Interlinking of Rivers have two major components i.e. Himalayan Component (14 links) and Peninsular component (16 links) It further mentions that the former component i.e. Himalayan links requires an understanding with neighbouring countries like Bhutan and Nepal. We hope that steps are being taken to have requisite discussions with the said countries. Regarding Peninsular link, the progress report records that in respect of two links - (1) Ken - Betwa link (U.P. and M.P.) and (2)Parbati - Kalisindh - Chambal link (M.P. and Rajasthan), quick implementation is feasible in respect of the first link. In respect of the first link, feasibility Report is stated to be complete and Central Water Commission has been asked to initiate steps for preparation of Detailed Project Report. It is, however, not indicated as to when the said DPR is likely to be prepared. In respect of second, the Report notes that National Water Development Agency has been directed to take necessary steps to prepare Feasibility Report by March, 2004 so as to take action for preparation of DPR thereafter. It is stated by learned counsel appearing for Union of India that in respect of these two links the State of Madhya Pradesh and State of Rajasthan have given their consent and the discussions with State of Uttar Pradesh are at advance stage and the Feasibility Report shall be prepared once the consent is received from the State of Uttar Pradesh. Further Progress Report may be filed by Union of India by 23rd April, 2004 and the matter shall be listed in the last week of April, 2004.
Upon hearing the case on 26th April, 2004, the Hon'ble Supreme Court made the following order:
Pursuant to the order dated 6th January, 2004, an affidavit by Joint Commissioner (Basin Management), Ministry of Water Resources, Government of India, dated 23rd April, 2004, has been filed. We have perused the said affidavit which details the progress in the matter of interlinking of rivers. Dealing with the follow up action on signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh and between Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the affidavit states that the Government of Madhya Pradesh has communicated its consent to sign the MOU while the matter is under discussion with the Governments of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh and efforts are being made to sort out the differences. With regard to the follow up action by Central Water Commission and National water Development Agency, it has been stated that the detailed project report for Ken-Betwa link is proposed be completed by Central Water Commission in thirty months. Our attention was drawn to the time table for interlinking of rivers already filed, according to which, for completion of detailed project reports, the time stipulated was 31st December, 2006. The feasibility report of Parbati-Kalisindh-Chambal link is stated to have been completed in March, 2004.
In respect of putting the feasibility report on website, an affidavit be filed along with the next progress report. Prima facie we cannot contemplate any reason for the feasibility report not putting on website. In the affidavit to be filed, the aspect of central legislation, as noticed in this Court's order dated 31st October, 2002, be also indicated.
Further progress report and the affidavit shall be filed within four months.
List after four months”.
Upon hearing the case on 30th August, 2004, the Hon'ble Supreme Court made the following order:
We have perused the affidavit of Mr. M.S. Gupta, Senior Joint Commissioner (Basin Division), Ministry of Water Resources; Government of India dated 24th August, 2004 along with which progress report in the matter of interlinking of rivers has been filed. The progress report being not very clear on our query, learned Solicitor General states that the Government has taken, in principal, decision to continue with interlinking of rivers. The matter, after comprehensive review is likely to be placed before the Cabinet after about six weeks. The report of the Standing Committee on Water Resources has been taken on record. Our attention has also been drawn by Mr. Ranjit Kumar, Amicus Curiae to the Report of the Standing Committee on Water Resources 2004-2005 inter alia stating that the committee desires that the Government to make earnest efforts to get going the interlinking of the Northern and Southern rivers under ILR Programme in a definite time schedule which, in their considered view, would save the nation from the devastating ravages of chronic droughts and floods. Be that as it may, as prayed by learned Solicitor General, we defer the matter by eight weeks. The up-to-date progress report be filed within eight weeks and the matter be listed thereafter.
Upon hearing the case on 1st November, 2004, the Hon'ble Supreme Court made the following order:
Pursuant to orders dated 30th August, 2004, a progress report in the matter of "Interlinking of Rivers" has been filed in the form of an annexure (Annexure R-9) to the affidavit of Shri M. S. Gupta, Senior Joint Commissioner (Basin Management), Ministry of Water Resources. Learned Solicitor General has also brought to our notice the presentation on the aspect of interlinking of rivers which was made by the Ministry of Water Resources in a high powered meeting, comprising of the Prime Minister, Union Minister of Finance, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, Member, Planning Commission, and Member Secretary to the Prime Minister amongst others. That presentation was made on 11th October, 2004. With reference to the project reports pertaining to link between Ken-Betwa which has a length of 231 Kms. and the link between Parbati-Kalisindh-Chambal with a length of 243 Kms., in the first link there being two States (U.P. & M.P.) and in the second link again there being two States (M.P. & Rajasthan), it has been, inter alia, stated that the consensus group has been asked to intensify its efforts with a view to resolve technical issues with the State Governments and submit its report by November, 2004. The presentation, however, stipulates that after the receipt of the report that may be submitted by November, 2004, the Secretary (Water Resources) will hold discussions with concerned State Governments followed by political level meetings to reach an understanding so that preparation of Detailed Project Reports (DPRs) can start. It has also been stipulated that other apprehensions of States will be addressed at DPR stage. The presentation has priortised the different project components for preparation of DPRs and implementation.
In regard to involvement of environmentalists and others, this Court in its order dated 5th May, 2003 had directed that the process of preparation of DPRs for an inter basin link needs to cover also a detailed environmental impact assessment, environmental management plan and R&R plan for project affected persons. An apprehension was expressed at that stage that the matters of environment may be over looked in the implementation of this project. This Court found no substance in the apprehension that the Task Force would not implement the law. It was observed that in case other experts in the field provide necessary inputs, that would be given due consideration it deserves. Now, a perusal of the present report shows that it has been specifically noticed that a group of environmentalists, social activists and other experts will be constituted by the Ministry of Water Resources which will be involved in the consultative process for the project. In the order dated 26th April, 2004, we had observed that, prima facie, it is not possible to contemplate any reason for the feasibility report not being put on website. In the Status Report, it has been mentioned that the Chiarman, Governing Body, NWDA and Secretary (Water Resources) has directed NWDA on 13th October, 2004 to take further action for putting the feasibility report on Ken-Betwa Link on website. For further consideration the matter shall be placed before the Court in the last week of January or first week of February, 2005.
Upon hearing the case on 4th Feb, 2005, the Hon'ble Supreme Court made the following order:
The learned counsel for the Union of India prays for four weeks' time to file the status report. Prayer is allowed and the writ petitions are adjourned.
UPON hearing counsel the Court made the following ORDER on 8th April 2005:
We have perused the status report filed in the form of an affidavit of Shri M. S. Gupta, Senior Joint Commissioner (Basin Management), Ministry of Water Resources, Government of India.
In so far as Ken-Betwa link is concerned, though the affidavit and the documents accompanying it state that the Principal Secretary, Government of Uttar Pradesh, would inform the decision of the Government by the end of January, 2005, we are told by the learned Solicitor General that the Government of Uttar Pradesh has conveyed its consent, subject to certain conditions, in particular the condition of funding. The cost of preparation of the Detailed Project Report [for short, "D.P.R."] is proposed to be done from Central funding amounting to Rupees thirty crores. We take note of the fact that now a Memorandum of Understanding is required to be signed between the Government of Uttar Pradesh and the Central Government.
In so far as Parbati-Kalisindh-Chambal link is concerned, the consensus group headed by the Chairman, Central Water Commission, held its meeting on 2nd November, 2004, and discussed the issues raised by the Governments of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh regarding Parbati-Kalisindh-Chambal link. The group submitted its report to the Ministry. The Governments of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh were asked to give concurrence for signing the Memorandum of Understanding so that the work for preparation of D.P.R. could commence. It seems that certain issues are still to be sorted out with the State of Rajasthan even after the inter-State meeting of Chief Secretaries held on 11th January, 2005. We hope that the issues would be sorted out without the intervention of the Court.
It further appears that the feasibility reports of three other links in Peninsular component, namely Par-Tapi Narmada Link, Godavari (Polavaram)- Krishna (Vijayawada) link and Daman Ganga-Pinjal link, have been taken up for initiating action for consensus building.
Annexure R-4 to the affidavit shows that the feasibility reports in respect of fourteen Peninsular component and two Himalyan components have been completed. Mr. Prashant Bhushan, learned counsel, submits that despite the orders of this Court, only one feasibility report has been put on the website. The order of the Court is clear and we direct its compliance in letter and spirit so that the feasibility reports shall be put up on the website soon after its completion. One of the objects sought to be achieved is that the concerned environmentalists and others can put forth their view-point which can be considered. The view-point can be placed before the Committee of Environmentalists, social scientists and other experts on inter-linking which has been constituted by the Government in terms of Office Memorandum dated 28th December, 2004. We feel that the Group shall also intimate and invite Mr. Ranjit Kumar, learned Amicus Curaie, by giving sufficient notice of the meeting. The concerned persons, above noted, can also bring their view-point before Mr. Ranjit Kumar as well.
The Office Memorandum dated 29th December, 2004 shows that the task force on inter-linking of rivers, having submitted its report, has been wound up with effect from 31st December, 2004 and a special cell is constituted to look after the residuary work of the task force and for taking follow up action on the inter-linking of river programmes under the Ministry of Water Resources. That special cell was earlier headed by a Joint Secretary but now in terms of Office Memorandum dated 15th February,2005, it has been directed to be headed by the Commissioner (Project) in the said Ministry.
It may also be noted that the terms of reference of the Environmentalists Committee, above noted, seem to be quite comprehensive and that is the reason we have directed that all concerned may place their view-point before the said Committee. The next status report be filed within three months.
UPON hearing counsel the Court made the following Order on 8th Aug, 2005:
Contempt Petition (C) No.163 of 2005:
The grievance made in this petition is that, despite repeated orders of this Court, the respondents have not put the feasibility reports on website, except the feasibility report in respect of Ken-Betwa Link project. The orders that have been passed by this Court for putting the feasibility reports on website are dated 26th April, 2004, 1st November, 2004 and 8th April, 2005. The advantage of putting the said reports on website has also been indicated in the order dated 8th April, 2005. With reference to the orders earlier passed, it was directed on 8th April, 2005, that feasibility reports shall be put on website soon after its completion. Pursuant to the order dated 8th April, 2005, Mr. K. Vohra, Senior Joint Commissioner (Basin Management), Ministry of Water Resources, has filed a status report in the form of an affidavit in respect of some of the links. It is stated that the Government of Gujarat has not agreed to put feasibility report on the website and the response of other concerned State, namely, Maharashtra, is awaited. This is in respect of Par-Tapi Narmada and Damanganga-Pinjal links. We fail to understand, where was the necessity for the Government of India to ask any other authority or State Government for its agreement for placing the feasibility reports on website when specific orders have been passed by this Court. If Government of India or any State had any difficulty in implementing the direction of placing the feasibility reports on website, it was open to them to approach this Court and seek further directions. Nothing of the kind has been done by any of the parties or the Government.
Mr. Goolam E. Vahanvati, learned Solicitor General, states that it appears that the feasibility report of Parbati Kalisindh-Chambal link project has also been put on website recently. At present, though we are not inclined to take any action as sought for in this contempt petition in view of the submission of the learned Solicitor General that there was some confusion in the mind of some officers in respect of the direction made for putting the feasibility reports on website, we direct that all such feasibility reports, which are ready and complete, shall be put on website without reference to any person or authority and without any further delay. This would dispose of the contempt petition.
In respect of Parbati Kalisindh-Chambal link, the affidavit shows that the matter has already been discussed at the level of Consensus Building Group. It is pointed out that the Chief Ministers of the States of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are expected to meet shortly and discuss various issues. In respect of Ken-Betwa link, from the affidavit, it appears that though the Government of Madhya Pradesh has given its consent, the Government of Uttar Pradesh has not even responded. Reference in this affidavit has been made to the letter written on 19th May, 2005. It is stated that the response from the State of Uttar Pradesh is still awaited. The learned counsel for the State of Uttar Pradesh is present but without any instructions. We direct the State of Uttar Pradesh to cooperate in the matter. For the present, we say no more. Further, it has been brought to our notice by the learned Solicitor General that papers for convening the meeting of the Committee of Environmentalists, Social Scientists and other experts have been processed and it is expected that a date for the said meeting will be fixed shortly of which sufficient notice would be given to Mr. Ranjit Kumar, learned Amicus Curiae.
In respect of Godavari (Polavaram)-Krishna (Vijayawada) Link, Damanganga-Pinjal Link and Par-Tapi Narmada Link, it has been stated in the affidavit that sixth meeting of `Consensus Group is stated to be now fixed for 23rd August, 2005