Project to beautify Taj Mahal stalled


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Barrage proposal stuck as two panels refuse to take a call

New Delhi, 24 Jun: When’s a barrage, not a barrage? An answer to this lies at the heart of the clearance to a project to improve infrastructure and long-term sustainability of the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra.

 

A proposal by the Uttar Pradesh government to construct a barrage across the Yamuna, a kilometre and a half away from the Taj Mahal, is stuck between two expert committees of the Union Environment Ministry.

 

Each committee, consisting of eminent experts, thinks that it’s the other panel that should be taking a call on the future of the project, a perusal of the public records of meetings and discussions in the Ministry shows.

 

The project of the Irrigation Department envisages construction of a barrage for “securing the foundation of the Taj Mahal, improving the water level at Agra, beautifying and navigating the Yamuna at 1.50 km downstream of the Taj Mahal.”


Water all through year

Such a storage, generally used in irrigation and hydro-electricity projects, would ensure a minimum quantity of water all through the year.

 

It would help to recharge the ground water and facilitate navigation through river routes. That stretch of the Yamuna is a National Waterway (Delhi to Allahabad) and the barrage would serve as an alternative to motorised transport and would also help to develop a green belt around the pond which would “improve the environment around the Taj Mahal”, the project proponents say.

 

A discussion on the scheme first began at the Union Environment Ministry on October 11 last year. A committee led by Satish Wate, former Director of the CSIR-National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Nagpur, ruled that the project ought to be evaluated by the Environment Appraisal Committee (River Valley and Hydro Electric Projects). This committee, on February 27, held that the project did not involve hydropower generation or irrigation and therefore was better suited for another Environment Ministry committee — the one on infrastructure projects — and known as the EAC (Infrastructure Projects-2).

 

On May 27, as minutes of a meeting held by the EAC (Infrastructure Projects) show, committee members concluded that the project involved the development of a “conventional” barrage and “…the components in the proposal primarily fall under the jurisdiction of EAC looking after construction of dams/barrages/river valley projects, since they have experts from the relevant fields who can better appraise the proposal and suggests suitable environmental safeguards/mitigation measures.”

 

Therefore, the committee recommended passing it back to the EAC (River Valley and HEP).

 

No date has been set for the next meeting of the EAC (River Valley and HEP).

 

 

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