Thursday, 16 February 2012

Urgent Press Note: Green Tribunal Stays use of forest land for Alaknanda-Badrinath HEP in Uttarakhand


Alaknanda-Badrinath HEP (300 MW)
River- Alaknandaganga
Agancy: GMR Energy Limited

On 15th National Green Tribunal has ordered that no trees on the forest land proposed to be diverted for the 300 MW Alaknanda (Badrinath) Hydropower project in Uttarakhand be cut without the prior permission of the Tribunal. This was in response to an appeal (no 7/2012 dated 31-1-12) filed by Vimal Bhai of Matu Jansangthan and Dr. Bharat Jhunjhunwala, challenging the forest clearance given by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest on Nov 8, 2011.
It may be recalled that the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest had over ruled the decision of the Forest Advisory Committee to twice reject the forest clearance to the project in their meetings on May 30-31, 2011 and Oct 12, 2011. The Wildlife Institute of India (WII), through a report commissioned by the ministry had also recommended that the project should not be taken up considering the serious nature of impacts due to the projects. WII has concluded, on the basis of which Forest Advisory Committee has taken the decision, that “Alaknanda-Badrinath and Kotlibhel IB support significant ecological/wildlife values that include irreplaceable components. Any form of development in these areas will have irreversible and un-mitigable negative impacts on these values.”
The Alaknanda-Badrinath hydro project is located in the buffer zone of Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve which has two core zones the Nanda Devi National Park (NP) and Valley of Flowers NP. Both the core zones are inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. Also it is very close to the prestigious God Badrinath Temple. The ecological sensitive region is at the height of more than 2800 meters and very close to glacier.

NGT Order dated 15-2-12 says:
"Heard Mr. Dutta, Learned Counsel for Appellant. The case is admitted subject to limitation. Issue Notice to Respondents. Requisites shall be filed within 5 days. An extra copy be served upon Ms. Neelam Rathore, who usually appears for Respondent No. 1 (MoEF ). She is also directed to file the reply of MoEF by next date. List this matter on21st March, 2012. In the meanwhile, no trees existing on forest land proposed to be diverted shall be felled without obtaining prior permission of this Tribunal.

It is also recalled here that the Environment Clearance dated 12-03-2008 of this project was challenged in the then National Environment Appellate Authority (NEAA) {the then authority where environment clearance could be challenged} by Matu Jansangthan in 29-07-2008 appeal No. (FR) 7/2008 but has not been entertained by NEAA as it was outside the time limitation by its order dated 08-08-2008.

Puran Singh Rana