On 15 September 2010, after three years (2007 to 2010) struggle at the National Environment Appellate Authority on the three Kotli-Bhel hydro-electric projects, the NEAA has quashed the Environmental Clearance of only one of them - the Kotli-Bhel Stage-1B.
Despite a strong case being made for the other two projects, the NEAA has not quashed the environmental clearances granted to the Kotli-Bhel Stage-1A and Stage-2 projects.
Just to inform you, three kotlibhel projects are proposed by NHPC around the confluence of river Bhagirathi and Alaknanda which is known as Devprayag. These projects were granted environment clearance by Ministry of Environment and forest and same was challenged by Matu Peoples' Organisation with affected community.
We are very thankfully to our lawyers who have persistently and tirelessly fought this case - Adv. Ritwick Dutta, Adv. Rahul Choudhary and their team at the Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE). It is due them that we have been able to fight this case without any financial constraints.
We are thankful to friends, activists and villagers who have invested their efforts, expertise and energy in this case and helped us to come this far. We are particularly grateful to Dr. Bharat Jhujhunwala for convincingly arguing before the Authority.
This is the first time that the environmental clearance granted to a dam in Uttarakhand has been quashed.
Though the NEAA has not allowed our Appeal against the Kotlibhel -1A and Kotlibhel-II projects, but has expressed the following view: Ministry may take note of the outcome of proposed ‘Comprehensive Ganga Basin Management Plan’ while implementing Kotlibhel-1A and Kotlibhel-II projects.
This observation of the Authority and the fact that the Ministry has recently step up the National Ganga River Authority, gives us hope that the Ministry will take steps to stop Kotli Bhel IA on the Bhagirathi and Kotli Bhel 2 on the Ganga. We have sent several petitions to the Ministry for free flowing river Ganga.
We will be sending you our comments and future plan of action soon. Please find below significant excerpts from the Authority's order.
So now Lets say Zindabad
Let Rivers flow free and clean
significant excerpts from the Authority's order:-
(Full order can be sent on demand)
River Ganga occupies a unique place in the hearts of millions of Indians whose faith is intimately connected with her. Rituals from birth to death take place all along the flowing river and the confluence in search for salvation. Tying the river through dams at interval that restricts it natural flow would amount to playing with the sentiments of millions. It is therefore, necessary that river Ganga is allowed to maintain its natural flow specially in stretches that are in close proximity of the habitation enabling them to perform rituals and to hear its sound which is being heard for generations.
12. To sum up- It is the considered view of the Authority that:-
Kotlibhel 1A is a smaller project across river Bhagirathi causing lesser and willing displacement. The area was not found ecologically sensitive. Consequent to its topography, the deep gorges, type of vegetation and series of dams upstream, its impact on currently prevailing riverine ecology is not considered significant. People of the area have supported the project. In view of 4 Km of steep length beyond outfall and assessing its overall pros & cons, this stretch of Bhagirathi river can afford to carry this project.
This largest of the three projects is most viable economically with least requirement of forest and private land (with willing displacement) per unit production of power. The area was not found ecologically sensitive and given the series of dams upstreams both in Bhagirathi and Alaknanda, the impact on existing riverine ecology is not considered significant. The outfall of this project runs to a length of over 30 Km. This reasonably fast flowing water providing water sport is capable of rejuvenating and restoring the oxygen demand of river Ganga. The project was welcomed by the people during the hearing as well as during the field visit.
For the quantum of power production, in Kotlibhel- 1B, the displacement is very high. There is strong protest against parting of their houses and lands. The stretch runs through a populated area on which people perform rituals in flowing water. Being habitat for migratory fishes like Tor and Schizothorax spp, and the habitat for otter, the area is ecologically sensitive and with storage to a length of 27.5 Km it was found to affect the riverine ecology which cannot be compensated by declaring it a ‘restricted area’ or providing hatcheries. In the context of Srinagar project, there is need for a free flowing stretch for rejuvenation of river Alaknanda before it meets Bhagirathi at Deoprayag. This free flow will also help restoring the flow dynamics at Deoprayag which is affected by Kotlibhel-II. In short, river Alaknanda cannot afford to carry a project between Deoprayag and Srinagar. Overall there is also mass public resentment against the project which has not been considered by the EAC. Merely responding the representation of two persons is not sufficient.
13. In fine the Environment Clearances of Ministry of Environment and Forests in its No. J-12011/5/2007-IA.I , dated 9th May, 2007 to Kotlibhel Hydroelectric Project (Stage 1A) and letter No. J-12011/49/2007-IA.I dated 23rd August, 2007, to Kotlibhel Hydro Electric project (Stage-II) are upheld. (Appeal Nos. 8 of 2007 and 10 of 2007)
Ministry’s Environment Clearance issued vide order J-122011/21/2007-IA.I dated 14th August 2007 to Kotlibhel Hydroelectric Project (Stage 1B) is hereby quashed. There will be no cost.
Ministry may take note of the outcome of proposed ‘Comprehensive Ganga Basin Management Plan’ while implementing Kotlibhel-1A and Kotlibhel-II projects.
(J. C. KALA)