The Ministry of Environment and Forests has issued a show cause notice to Shree Maheshwar Hydel Power Corporation Limited – which is building the Maheshwar dam in Madhya Pradesh. The controlling equity stake of Shree Maheshwar Hydel Power Corporation is vested with the S. Kumars group.

The notice, issued by the MoEF under section 5 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, following alleged violations of statutory clearances, has asked the corporation as to why the environmental clearance granted to the Maheshwar project should not be revoked and directions for the closure of the project not be issued.

The notice, dated February 17 reads, “…no progress has been made regarding the creation of two Sanctuaries, as well as rehabilitation and resettlement of project affected persons”.

Mentioning that there has been no satisfactory compliance with the conditions of the environmental clearance given to the project (dated 1st May 2001), the notice states that “if no satisfactory reply is received, the Ministry may be constrained to take necessary action…under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.”

The notice also states that “conditions of the environmental clearance specify clearly that the progress in implementation of the environmental safeguard measures and rehabilitation and resettlement should keep pace with the progress in concreting. However, this is not reportedly taking place”.

A group of the dam-affected people met Union Minister of Environment and Forests Mr. Jairam Ramesh in Delhi to express their demands for suspension of the construction project on Tuesday.

The Maheshwar dam project was privatized and handed over to the S. Kumar’s Group of Companies in 1992. When the dam was approved, the State and Central governments agreed to provide the affected people agricultural land, resettlement sites and other benefits.

The statutorily binding clearances accorded under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 required that a comprehensive Relief and Rehabilitation (R&R) Plan with details of agricultural land to be allotted to the oustees, was to be submitted by December 2001 and that the implementation of the R&R Plan was to be done simultaneous to the construction of the dam.

The notice has served as a morale booster for the people affected by the Maheshwar dam who have been demanding rehabilitation and compensation for the last 15 years.