New Delhi: The NGT has directed the EAC to reappraise Uttarakhand's 300 MW Lakhwar multi-purpose project, which has been stalled since 1992, and asked the state government to maintain "status quo" on construction.
The project is being built by the Uttarakhand Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited (UJVNL).
A bench headed by Justice Raghuvendra S Rathore directed the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) to appraise the project afresh in terms of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2006 and impose additional general and specific conditions as may be considered necessary.
"After considering the pleadings and materials on record, we are of the considered opinion that the clarifications given by the project proponent, the report of the expert Committee and finding of various studies need to be looked into and studied by the EAC and project needs to be reappraised in terms of EIA notification, 2006," said the bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT). "We, therefore, direct the EAC to appraise the project afresh in terms of EIA notification 2006 and impose additional general and specific conditions as may be considered necessary. EAC will be free to call for any reports which it may consider necessary. EAC is further directed to complete the appraisal by April 15, 2019. Till the project is reappraised status quo shall be maintained," the bench said.
The construction work on the project started in 1987 and continued till 1992.
The project was bifurcated into two components namely Lakhwar Multipurposes Dam (300 MW) and Vyasi HEP (120 MW). A separate Environmental Clearance was obtained for Vyasi HEP on September 7,2007. The tribunal's judgement came on the plea filed by Yamuna activists Manoj Kumar Misra and Bhim Singh Rawat who had sought stay on construction of 204 metre high concrete dam with a 40 km long reservoir on river Yamuna near Lohari village in Dehradun district of Uttarakhand. According to the plea, the environmental approval letter granted by MoEF in 1987 was an administrative approval to the composite Lakhwar-Vyasi project.
"Subsequently, the two projects were bifurcated and sought to be developed separately. It is pertinent to note that the Vyasi HEP, a 2x60 MW run-of-the-river hydroelectric project downstream of Lakhwar HEP, was appraised in accordance with the EIA Notification and granted Environment Clearance on 7-09-2007. "The construction works of the Vyasi HEP are underway... UJVNL had sought for an environmental clearance (EC) from the MoEF for the Lakhwar Project. The expert appraisal committee (EAC) had examined the proposal for the Lakhwar Project in its meeting on 11 and 12 November, 2010, in which several issues were raised," the plea, filed through advocate Rahul Choudhary, had said. It had alleged that there has been no assessment of the impacts of the construction and operation of the Lakhwar project "vide cumulative impact assessment" and there have also never been any "public hearings, consultations or expert appraisal" of the project.
"The project was not recommended for EC and subsequent to the meeting, the project proponent neither satisfied the EAC on these issues, nor went back to the EAC. Hence the issues raised by EAC remain unresolved till date and no fresh Environment Clearance for the project was issued. "A perusal of the approval letter clearly indicates that there was no evaluation of the project in terms of its environmental costs and impacts, as required under the EIA Notification," the plea had said.