NGT constitutes committee in plea challenging environmental clearance to hydropower project on Yamuna in U'khand
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has constituted an independent Expert Committee comprising of multi-disciplinary authorities in an appeal moved against Environmental Clearance (EC) granted by the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MoEF&CC) in an order dated February 2, 2021 for Lakhwar Multipurpose Project (300 MW) in Tehri Garwal and Dehradun by M/s UJVN Ltd on Yamuna river in Uttrakhand.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has constituted an independent Expert Committee comprising of multi-disciplinary authorities in an appeal moved against Environmental Clearance (EC) granted by the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MoEF&CC) in an order dated February 2, 2021 for Lakhwar Multipurpose Project (300 MW) in Tehri Garwal and Dehradun by M/s UJVN Ltd on Yamuna river in Uttrakhand. The bench headed by NGT Chief in an order passed on January 20, stated that "we constitute an independent Expert Committee comprising of multi-disciplinary authorities will be chair by Additional Secretary, (Ministry of Water Resources) and others including Director Cold Water Fisheries (Nainital), Geological Survey of India (GSI), IIT Roorkee, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Wildlife Institute of India (Dehradun), Institute of Seismological Research (Gandhinagar)."
The Secretary, Department of Energy, Government of Uttrakhand will act as the member secretary of the Committee for coordination and compliance, stated NGT order. The Committee has been constituted having regard to domain expertise to deal with the issues of seismology, protection of fisheries, flora and fauna, biodiversity, catchment area treatment and other environmental issues including, muck dumping and social issues arising out of submergence.
The domain experts will look into their respective fields, to be collated collectively by the Committee. While constituting the committee, the bench said, "We are of the view that having regard to the mandate of the Tribunal to conduct merit review, irrespective of any merit in the case of the appellant, merely looking at procedural aspects and credentials of the Chairman and Members of the EAC may not be helpful to the cause of environment."
"A comprehensive view of the substance of the matter may be in the larger public interest. This may require the opinion of domain experts to facilitate the informed decision of the Tribunal about the viability of the project and conditions subject to which the same can be allowed, apart from conditions already laid down," the bench added. The Committee may record its observations about the viability of the project, mitigating the adverse impact on the environment, flora and fauna and further conditions which may be required to be laid down including the mechanism for monitoring during the setting up and execution of the project and also for resettlement and rehabilitation of inhabitants who may be displaced, said the bench.
The Committee may complete its proceedings as far as possible within four months and file its report before the Tribunal on or before June 30, 2022, it added. The appellant Manoj Mishra through Advocate Ritwick Dutta stated that the drinking water/irrigation component of the project has not been appraised and the EAC went beyond its mandate while conducting its meeting for granting the Environmental Clearance to the project.
The EIA report prepared for the project is highly deficient and faulty as it did not take into account the impact on the biodiversity of the project and the impact of clearing a forest land of 768.15 ha. The lawyer also submitted that the disaster management plan is also highly faulty as it does not take into consideration the location of the project with respect to seismic activity. Additionally, the muck disposal sites are in close proximity to the river.
The cumulative impact assessment study for the Yamuna river basin is not available in the public domain. The project has also adversely impacted the flow of water in the Yamuna river. The appellant also questioned the credentials of the Chairman and members of the EAC and it is submitted that the project is not viable on account of adverse impact on flora and fauna and also having regard to the location of the project. Safeguards incorporated are not adequate, the appeal said.
The Tribunal noted that the work started in the project in 1987 and continued till 1992. Later, the project was bifurcated into two components Lakhwar Multipurpose Dam (300 MW) and Vyasi HEP (120 MW). A separate Environmental Clearance was obtained for Vyasi HEP on September 17, 2007. Subsequently, EC was transferred to Uttarakhand Jal Vidyut Nigam (UJVNL). (ANI)
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