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SC orders public hearing on Polavaram project

A file photo of the Polavaram project in West Godavari district.

A file photo of the Polavaram project in West Godavari district.   | Photo Credit: A.V.G. Prasad

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‘Citizens have right to know what is happening’

The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the Centre to hold a public hearing with the people affected by the Polavaram dam project in Odisha and Chhattisgarh, saying in a democracy the citizens had “a right to know what is happening”.

A Bench led by Justice Madan B. Lokur categorically said the dam project could not be taken forward without first holding the hearing.

During the hearing, the affected people could discuss issues, including submergence of their land, compensation, and rehabilitation. It is a ground-level enquiry.

Tough deadline

The court directed the Centre to file an affidavit on Saturday detailing the conduct of the public hearing, including which government agency would hold it. The court said it would pass orders on Monday.

Telangana counsel, senior advocate C.S. Vaidyanathan, said a public hearing had already been held before the bifurcation of the State, but stressed that there should not be any submergence in Telangana.

“In a democracy, people have a right to know what is happening,” the court observed orally.

Appearing for the petitioner NGO, RELA, senior advocate Jayant Bhushan and advocate Sravan Kumar submitted that the dam design had been changed and new components added, thus requiring a new environmental clearance.

Primary among the questions being considered by the Bench is whether the dam project and its design, as approved by the Central Water Commission, is in consonance with the Godavari Water Disputes Tribunal (GWDT) award of 1980.

A series of 13 questions were framed by the Bench in a suit filed by Odisha against Andhra Pradesh in 2007. Among them, the court had also decided to look into the back water effect of the project.

Crucially, the court has to examine whether the change in the design, especially in so far as it raises the spill-way discharge capacity from 36 lakh cusecs to 50 lakh cusecs, is so fundamental that it amounts to violation of the GWDT Award, and, therefore, requires fresh statutory clearances to be obtained.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 7:07:36 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/sc-orders-public-hearing-on-polavaram-project/article25627425.ece

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