The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has allowed the Madhya Pradesh government and the project promoters of the Maheshwar hydro-electric project to fill the dam upto a height of 154 meters while scheduling the case to be listed three months later for a review.

In an order passed on Thursday by acting chairperson of NGT Justice A.S. Naidu and expert member Dr. G.K. Pandey, the NGT permitted the project promoters “to fill up the reservoir at the dam site upto 154 meters and commence generation of 40 MW electricity on trial basis for a period of three months”.

However, “realizing the gravity of the situation,” the NGT noted “it would be prudent to monitor the same (filling up of the dam) for the protection of environment and proper implementation of rehabilitation and resettlement plan to the affected persons” and “therefore we direct to list this case after three months. All the parties are directed to file further affidavits and status reports in the meanwhile.”

The tribunal directed the Madhya Pradesh government “to complete the entire process of rehabilitation and resettlement work, supply of drinking water and electricity to the affected persons within three months”.

The National Green Tribunal was established under the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010, for expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources.

Earlier, in June this year, the NGT had stayed the filling up of the dam upto 154 meters in response to an appeal from two oustees of the Maheshwar dam project—Sanjay Nigam and Antar Singh Patel.

The NGT also directed the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and the Madhya Pradesh government to remain alert and monitor the process in order to avoid any untoward incidents.

It also provided that if there was “any likelihood of submergence of abadi lands, then the process will be stopped / discontinued forthwith”.

Noting that it had to “apply the principles of sustainable development while passing an order”, the NGT observed that “considering the loss and harassment expected to be caused to land oustees, to their property as well as to ecology and environment in particular, this Tribunal should provide ways and means to mitigate such loss.”

The project promoters Shree Maheshwar Hydel Power Corporation Ltd (SMHPCL) welcomed the NGT order.

“The project, we wish to reiterate, will only help develop the area with better amenities and not damage,” the company said in a statement.

“The Maheshwar Project will reduce the peak-power shortage in the state of Madhya Pradesh by over 25 per cent as well as improve the socio economic condition of the region,” it said.

The 400 MW Maheshwar dam is India's first privately financed hydro-electric project and is one of the 39 big dams being built across the Narmada river.