Green tribunal stops Himachal hydropower project


Shimla : In a major setback to the construction of a hydroelectric project in Himachal Pradesh that will provide drinking water to Delhi, the National Green Tribunal (NGT), a judicial body hearing environment-related cases, Thursday stayed construction and land acquisition for the multimillion hydropower project.

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A bench headed by Justice C.V. Ramalu, in its interim order, directed the Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation Limited (HPPCL), a public sector undertaking executing the project, to stop the 40MW Renuka hydel project in Sirmaur district dam construction completely.

Ritwick Dutta, counsel for a petitioner, told IANS from Delhi that the tribunal also directed the project authorities to stop awarding land compensation to the affected villagers.

The tribunal has listed the matter for next hearing Sep 1.

Petitioner Durga Ram challenged the environmental clearances awarded to the project by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in October 2009.

He argued that the environment impact assessment (EIA) report for the project was inadequate and there were several discrepancies in the figures of the total area to be acquired for the project and the total number of families to be affected.

“The environment clearance was granted for acquiring 1,477 hectares but the HPPCL now claims that 2,239 hectares will be acquired for the project. Similarly, the EIA states that only 308 families will be directly affected. But the HPPCL says more than 1000 families will be affected. How can the project be accorded any clearances when the baseline data is not accurate?” argued the petitioner.

The Rs.2,700 crore ($560 million) Renuka dam, mainly funded by the central government, is to be built on a tributary of the Yamuna river.

The Delhi government has already given Rs.300 crore to the HPPCL to start the dam construction work.

As per an agreement between Himachal Pradesh and Delhi, the hill state will bear the cost of installing the electrical and mechanical equipment, including turbine generators.

The tribunal, which is dealing with environmental cases, is an independent unit that was launched July 4 with an initial support of the environment ministry.

Headquartered in Delhi, the tribunal has four circuit branches in the four regions of the country.