In a move that is viewed as a setback for the already delayed Sawra Kuddu hydroelectric project, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has ordered a halt to work on construction of a fifth tunnel at the site following a petition filed by a local panchayat on Tuesday.
The Asian Development Bank funded project, that is facing a huge cost overrun of Rs 606 crore, was earlier described as commercially unviable in a report submitted by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.
The Thana gram panchayat had sought a stay on construction work saying the project authorities has not applied for a no-objection certificate from the local gram sabha. It also submitted the area in which the tunnel was being built was in a seismic zone and prone to natural disasters.
The tribunal’s order may further delay completion of the project, located on the Pabbar river in Shimla district, work on which commenced in 2007. The CAG report said any further time overrun would lead to an increase in the cost of electricity generated from Rs 5.03 crore to Rs 10.50 crore per megawatt and that of per unit generation cost from Rs 2.34 to Rs 6.95.
Work on the fifth tunnel at the project site began in 2007 and, due to the delay in completing it, the project cost has almost doubled.
Four tunnels were earlier built but villagers in the area have been opposing construction of another one, saying it would posing a threat to the region’s apple orchards that are their main source of livelihood.
The state government had set up a holding company, Pabbar Valley Corp Ltd, in 2004 for execution of the project, which was later merged with Himachal Pradesh Power Corp Ltd in August 2007.