The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to reconsider its order on a blanket ban against 24 hydroelectric power projects in Uttarakhand — following last year’s flash flood — on a petition moved by the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC).
A bench of Justices Vikramajit Sen and S K Singh issued notices to the state government and others after the NTPC pleaded for vacation of the stay order to enable it go ahead with the construction of a 171 MW project in Uttarakhand.
This project was stayed along with 23 other projects by the SC by its order in August last year.
Agreeing to hear the NTPC’s plea, the bench sought a response from the state and fixed the matter for hearing on July 22.
Appearing for the public sector enterprise, Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar told the court that the construction was already underway when the apex court passed the restraint order and the project was not situated in the eco-sensitive zone. He added that the court order had created severe financial strains on the public exchequer since the cost of the project was escalating with the passage of time.
Concerned over the heavy loss of lives and property in the Uttarakhand floods, the SC had restrained the Central and state governments from giving any further environmental or forest clearance to hydroelectric projects in the state until further orders.
It had ordered a comprehensive study of the impact of such projects in the state after underlining that 24 of the total 39 proposed projects had been found to be significantly impacting biodiversity in two sub-basins of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi rivers.
In its report, the court-appointed panel had said that at least 23 power projects should be scrapped in Uttarakhand, while partly blaming hydro-power plants for the devastation caused by flash floods in the state last year.
“After considerable discussions and analysis, the expert body concluded that of the 24 proposed hydropower projects (HEPs) that the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) recommended for review, 23 HEPs would have significant irreversible impacts on biodiversity values. The EB recommends that for the 23 proposed HEPs out of the 24 identified by WII that would have irreversible impacts on the biodiversity of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi Basins, the HEPs that fall in any of the following conditions should not be approved for construction,” the report had stated.