The government has objected to World Bank investigating Vishnugad Pipalkoti power plant in Uttarakhand for its social and environmental impact saying it was beyond the bank’s mandate.
A World Bank team from Washington in November last year had conducted a preliminary inquiry into
the complaint of the locals that the 444 MW power project will destroy local ecology and impact flow of river Ganga and sought a full-fledged inquiry into the impact of the project.
The bank in August 2012 had sanctioned $648 million for the project, which is yet to get forest clearance from the environment ministry, the last stumbling block before the work on the project can start.
The bank in a report to the government had found some objections of the locals to be genuine and wants the government to look into them. The bank is also considering a full inquiry on the adverse impact of the project on local hydrology, a major area of concern for those fighting to save river Ganga. The hydro-project is coming on river Alakananda, an important tributary of river Ganga.
The bank, which is also funding environment ministry’s mission to clean river Ganga, has reportedly raised the possibility of the project changing the local environmental conditions, which could impact livelihood of the locals.
The report also speaks about the emotional attraction of large population to Ganga, a spiritual river. Government officials say the report also impinges on translocation of people affected by the project and drying of local water bodies because of diversion of Alakananda River for the hydro-project.
“Such issues are not within the Bank’s mandate,” a senior power ministry official said.
The government feels that social and environmental issues are under national purview and hence beyond the mandate of World Bank’s panel.
Many of the issues raised by the World Bank are pending before the Supreme Court, the government official said, arguing that there was no need for a parallel inquiry by the bank.
If needed the bank can consider conducting an inquiry after the apex court delivers its verdict, the government has said, in its report to the bank’s preliminary report.
In addition to the court, a committee headed by planning commission member BK Chaturvedi is also looking at impact of hydro power plants on river Ganga and its tributaries. The panel is yet to submit its report.