The fate of six hydropower projects in Uttarakhand is likely to be decided by the Supreme Court on Wednesday after the Centre presents its case on the need to carry out a cumulative environment impact assessment of such projects in the state.
These six are part of the 24 proposed hydropower projects that were recommended to be cancelled by the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII). A study conducted by WII had concluded that these 24 projects would lead to severe adverse impacts on the area’s biodiversity. At least two subsequent expert reports have agreed with the findings of the WII study.
These six, which had received many of the requisite government clearances to start construction, had intervened in an ongoing case being heard in the Supreme Court on the impact of hydropower projects and whether they contributed to the state’s 2013 flood disaster.
Last month, the government had constituted a 12-member expert body to assess the cumulative impact of proposed hydropower projects in the state. The terms of reference of the body in regard to these projects were slightly different from those for the other projects, and suggested that the government may allow these to begin work. The expert body has only been asked to assess month-wise e-flow, whether the bio-diversity impact can be mitigated, the safety measures that might be required for tunnelling etc, and prepare a disaster mitigation plan.