The Uttarakhand High Court on Monday issued notices to the Centre, Uttarakhand government and six other respondents on a PIL seeking resumption of work on the Pala-Maneri and Bhaironghati hydro power projects.
Admitting the petition filed by RLEK, a Doon-based NGO, a division bench comprising Chief Justice VK Gupta and Justice BC Kandpal directed the respondents to file their replies before July 30.
Uttarakhand Jal Vidyut Nigam, State Industrial Development Corporation of Uttarakhand, Uttarakhand Environment Protection and Pollution Control Board, National Thermal Power Corporation, Union Ministry of Water Resources and Indian Council for Enviro-Legal Action (ICELA) are the other respondents in the case.
The bench also decided to club the petition with another PIL filed by ICELA last month through eminent environment lawyer MC Mehta seeking a ban on tunneling work and construction of power projects on the Bhagirathi-Ganga and would hear both together.
Citing environmental and religious sentiments of millions of Hindus, the ICELA petition had sought directions for uninterrupted flow of the Bhagirathi and asked the court to declare the stretch between Gangotri and Dharasu as a national heritage.
On the other hand, the RLEK petition sought quashing of the ICELA petition stating that it was a 'political interest litigation' aimed at inciting religious sentiments ahead of the forthcoming general election.
As earlier reported, bowing to a fast-unto-death programme by environmentalist and former IIT-Kanpur Professor Dr GD Agrawal, the Uttarakhand government had stopped work on Pala-Maneri and Bhaironghati—two power projects on Bhagirathi last month.
The recent petition maintained that the state government stopped work on these two projects by succumbing to religious groups with vested interests and in violation of its own policy regarding generation of hydro-electric power in Uttarakhand.
It stated that by not constructing these projects, the government would fail the state's residents who had sacrificed a lot for creation of a new state in the name of development.
The petitioner also argued that Rs 100 crores have already been spent on the projects and delaying them further would lead to a rise in their total cost and would also affect industries being set up in the state.
It further stated that hydro-electricity has been acknowledged to be a clean, cheap and environment-friendly form of power generation. Citing a SC ruling, it added that religious significance of rivers has not deterred construction of power projects in the past.