SC bans green nod for new hydro-power units in Uttarakhand

New Delhi, Aug 13 (IANS) Expressing concern over the recent rain havoc in Uttarakhand, the Supreme Court Tuesday told the central and state governments not to grant environmental clearance for any hydro-power project in the hill state.

"We direct the MoEF as well as state of Uttarakhand not to grant any further environmental or forest clearance for any hydroelectric power project in the state of Uttarakhand, until further orders," said the apex court bench of Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan and Justice Dipak Misra.

Putting a blanket ban on the grant of environmental clearance to any hydroelectric project in Uttarakhand, Justice Radhakrishnan pronouncing the judgment said: "The adverse effect of the existing projects, projects under construction and proposed, on the environment and ecology calls for a detailed scientific study."

"Proper disaster management plan, it is seen, is also not in place, resulting in loss of lives and property," the court said.

"We are also deeply concerned with the recent tragedy, which has affected the Char Dham area of Uttarakhand," the court said.

It further noted that Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology in the state recorded 350 mm of rain June 15-16.

"Snowfall ahead of the cloudburst also has contributed to the floods resulting in the burst on the banks of Chorabari lake near Kedarnath, leading to large scale calamity leading to loss of human lives and property," the court said.

The ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) "is directed to constitute an expert Body...to make a detailed study as to whether hydro-electric power projects existing and under construction have contributed to the environmental degradation, if so, to what extent and also whether it has contributed to the present tragedy occurred at Uttarakhand in June".

The expert body would consist of the representatives of the state government, Central Electricity Authority, Central Water Commission and other expert bodies.

The Uttarakhand's Disaster Management Authority would submit a report as to "whether they had any disaster management plan in place...and how effective that plan was for combating the present unprecedented tragedy", the court said.

The court said that the reports would be submitted within a period of three months.

The court's order came while disposing off a petition by Alakhnanda Hydropower Co. Limited challenging the Uttarakhand High court order directing to hold public hearing for increasing the height of the dam for producing 330 MW of electricity on the Alakhnanda river.

Initially the project was for 200 MW and was granted to Duncan Industries Limited which gave it up later. When this project was awarded to Alakhnanda Hydropower Co. its generation capacity was increased to 330 MW involving the increasing of the height of the dam and displacement of people.

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