The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to file an expert opinion on the Vishnugad-Pipalkoti Hydro-Electric project in Uttarakhand's Chamoli district on a plea against grant of environmental clearance to the project.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel issued notice to the MoEF and the project proponent, THDC India Ltd., and asked them to file their response within a month.
“We also directed the MoEF to obtain and file an expert opinion from the Expert Appraisal Committee for river valley and hydro-electric project within two months by e-mail,” the bench said in its October 8 order.
The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by Dr. Bharat Jhunjhunwala and others against environment clearance (EC) dated August 26 granted by MoEF to the Vishnugad-Pipalkoti Hydro-Electric Project of 444 MW in an area of 141.568 ha by M/s THDC India Limited located at Haat village in Chamoli.
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The appellant has stated that initially the EC for the project was granted on August 22, 2007 for ten years, which was extended for three years and has been now extended up to August 21, 2021. “However, the project has not been operationalised and is still under construction. The project is funded by the World Bank . Out of total cost of about ₹3800 crore more than 50% of the cost has already been incurred,” the plea said.
According to the plea, Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) is in favour of abandoning the project. Dispensing with of public hearing is not called for nor valid as the project is not completed to the extent of 50%, as required for such an exemption, it said. The EAC has not undertaken proper evaluation of the mitigation measures, it submitted.
“It has gone by rapid Environment Impact Assessment ignoring deficiencies, particularly impacts of soil erosion, blasting, decline in water quality, loss of aesthetic values and loss of aquatic biodiversity . These impacts have not been duly evaluated nor included in the CBA,” the plea submitted. The Vishnugad Pipalkoti Hydro Electric Project (VPHEP) is a proposed 444 Megawatt (MW) run-of-the-river hydro generation project on the Alaknanda River, which is a tributary of the Ganga.