The Centre on Tuesday told the Supreme Court (SC) that it would scrap the power projects in Uttarakhand if it found any flaw with them.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said the government would not shy away from taking such a bold step in its effort to protect the environment.
Rohatgi’s submission comes close to a report by the ministry of environment and forest (MoEF), which said the hydropower projects in the state had direct and indirect impact in the aggravation of floods that hit Uttarakhand in 2013. Hundreds of pilgrims on way to Kedarnath and Badrinath got killed during the flash floods and thousands were left homeless.
A bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra, however, cautioned the government from taking any impulsive decision and advised it to have a balanced approach on the issue. It said a holistic view on the cluster of six hydropower projects needs to be taken. The projects have claimed to have all the necessary environmental clearances and want to resume construction work on Alaknanda and Bhagirath river basins.
The court gave the government two months time to come up with a feasibility report vis-à-vis each project. Justice Misra said the hydro power projects were the cheapest and environment friendly ventures. It fixed February 17 for further hearing.
The six projects are NTPC’s Lata Tapovan, Bhyundar Ganga and Kotibhel-IA, GMR’s Alaknanda Badrinath and Khirao Gango, and a small hydel-power project in Jhala Koti. As per an earlier SC order 24 of the 39 proposed projects in Uttarakhand were stalled after the court noted that they had significantly impacted the biodiversity in the two sub-basins of the two rivers.
On the last hearing, the court had made it clear that if the government decided to scrap the projects it should compensate the companies. “The government should pay them money if they want to scrap the projects... it must look at tapping natural resources for electricity...but this should not come in way of environment,” it had said.