Sharad Jain, the chairman of the panel which cleared the Ken-Betwa river link project of the National Water Development Agency (NWDA) was appointed as the director general of NWDA only three months after clearing project. The reconstituted Expert Appraisal Committee for River Valley & Hydroelectric Projects (EAC-RVHP) which was chaired by Sharad Jain, recommended the NWDA’s Ken-Betwa river-link project for environmental clearance in the first meeting which was held on December 30, 2016 and Jain was appointed the director general on March 29, 2017.
However, this development did not go well with the activists and experts who wrote to Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan on Monday seeking Sharad Jain’s resignation from the post. Former central government secretary and one of the signatories EAS Sarma claimed that Jain cleared the Ken Betwa link project despite the issues which were raised in the four earlier meetings of EAC. Talking to Indian Express, Sharad Jain called the accusations ridiculous and said that he is not paid for the additional charge and that evaluation is a continuous process which picks from the progress made in its previous meeting.
The letter refers to the 2009 EAC chairman Dr P Abraham who too was asked to resign because he was also the chairman of hydropower companies whose projects came before the EAC. Himanshu Thakkar of South Asian Network on Dams, Rivers, and People questioned as to how could somebody who is the director general of the project could appraise a project objectively.
Sharad dismissed the comparison between him and former chairman Dr P Abraham and said a private company cannot be compared with NWDA and that no NWDA project has come before the committee since his joining. He also asserted that he will abstain from the meeting if that situation was to come. The top Environment Ministry officials did not comment on the issue, while Jain headed the EAC meeting scheduled in Delhi on Tuesday.