An environment ministry panel has rejected the Uttar Pradesh government’s proposal to develop the country’s first “religious hi-tech smart city” in Garh Mukteshwar, saying the project would “kill the cleanest part” of the Ganga and further endanger the dolphins inhabiting the national river.
Countries such as Malaysia had shown interest in the project in which the river was to be diverted to construct a barrage and a canal encircling the new city. Malaysia’s Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) wanted to invest US$30 million at four places in India, including Garh Mukteshwar.
The UP government had proposed a new city spread over 7,395 hectares inside Hastinapur wildlife sanctuary and on both banks of river Ganga with an aim to inculcate a unique mix of technology and religion. The city was to be developed in a public-private-partnership model having high-end residential and commercial establishments.
But the standing committee of the national board for wildlife, which reviews projects coming up in and around national parks and sanctuaries, rejected the proposal after a team led by the ministry’s inspector general of forests inspected the site.
It found that the project had the potential to change “morphology and hydrodynamics” of the Ganga and will kill approximately 7km of the river in UP.
“This (the project) will hinder the efforts towards the restoration of the Ganga river and will negatively affect the success of making a clean and vibrant Ganga which is one of the (central government’s) main agenda,” the team said in its reported submitted to the ministry of environment, forest and climate change last month.
On the proposed barrage to divert 6,000 cusec of water from the river to have a man-made river front, the inspection report said it will “disrupt the downstream ecological process” of Ganga and will be in violation of the National Green Tribunal’s July 2017 order which prohibited construction along the river. It also said the proposed 8.5km canal from the barrage will affect integrity of the wildlife habitat as it will hinder movement of wild animals.
The report said Ganga at Garh Mukteshwar was cleanest in Uttar Pradesh and held a significant population of river dolphins, critically endangered gharial and turtle species.