Uttarakhand may lose yet another power project after it was alleged that incorrect information was given to get environment clearance.
Early this month, the Centre had shot down two power projects planned on Ganga river in the hill state over adverse ecological impact.
To get the go-ahead for the Khasiabhara hydel project on Gori Ganga river in Pithoragarh district, NTPC, formerly the National Thermal Power Corporation, and the agency that gave the environment impact assessment (EIA) concealed facts, a environment ministry panel has said. The report, submitted last week, has recommended a clearance review.
The NTPC, which is promoting the project, and the agency that prepared the EIA tried to convey that the Gori Ganga River valley was deficient in biodiversity, says the report. “This needs to be verified… the Gori Ganga valley has been recognised as one of the important biodiversity zones in the entire Western Himalaya Eco Region.”
The NTPC said 73 floral species will be hit, the report puts the number at 3,368. The power PSU identified 10 mammalian species as vulnerable to the project, but the report, prepared by the ministry’s regional office in Lucknow in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, says 76 species will be under pressure.
There are differences on forest area requirement as well. The NTPC said 158 hectares of forestland would be required. The report says 218 hectares will be needed — 18,000 trees will have to be cut.
The report says the 261-MW project couldn’t be examined in isolation as six more hydel projects are being planned in the Gori Ganga valley.
“If all these projects are allowed, it would mean an ecological disaster for this pristine valley,” said a ministry official, part of the committee that conducted site inspection.
The official, however, said they were yet to take a decision on the report. Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, who has been calling for impact assessment of all power projects in Ganga river valley, wasn’t available for comments.