In repeat of Posco inquiry, a committee to look into issues raised by Uma Bharati to save Dhara Devi temple in Uttarakhand has given a fragmented version.
The official and non-official members of the committee had given separate reports showing a clear division on action they propose to save the temple and enforcement of environmental rules to allow increasing the scope of 330 MW Srinagar Hydro Electricity Project.
Environment minister Jairam Ramesh had earlier this month had got construction of the dam on Alakananda river stopped after Bharati wrote a protest letter against submergence of the temple to Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
He constituted a three member inquiry committee having two ministry officials and Navanjot Lahiri, a Delhi University professor to suggest measures to save the temple and submit a compliance report on environmental conditions imposed when the project was cleared in 1996.
The ministry officials submitted one report whereas Lahiri submitted another with differing views this week.
Lahiri took a strong objection to the committee members meeting the locals in presence of project proponents Alakananda Hydro Power Limited (AHPL) resulting in they agreeing with the project, except Bharat Jhunjunwala, who had also filed a petition against the project in Uttarakhand High Court.
The official members S Das and Sanchita Jindal observed that Jhunjunwala was opposed to the project whereas majority of locals including presidents of 10 gram panchayasts supported the project.
Lahiri took a contrary view to official members, who agreed with project proponents that the temple can be elevated using concrete pillars and said there was no need to review it as temple management agreed with it.
“Until alternative plan is prepared and shared with the temple management, no further work should be done at Dhara Devi temple site,” she said, in her separate report.
Lahiri also differed with view of the official members that there was no need to review environment clearance for increasing the scope of the project from 200 MW to 330 MW and increasing its height from 77 meters to 99 meters. “Dam height is not very sacrosanct for river bed or deepest foundation. Reservoir level is the vital characteristics for project implementation,” the report of official members said. Lahiri said the government should take opinion of the law ministry and should review the project as per environmental norms.
In case of Posco, three non-official members had differed with Meena Gupta, former environment ministry secretary. But, the ministry had finally gone with Gupta’s minority view.