Construction at Bajoli-Holi project will subject to final decision of court: HC
Himachal Pradesh High Court has passed an order that any construction for 180 mega watt Bajoli-Holi Hydroelectric Project proposed to come up on the bank of Ravi river, would subject to the final decision of this Court.
Hearing a writ petition, division bench of High Court comprising justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjay Karol, held in an interim order passed on November 23 that if any construction comes up on the project would subject to the final decision of this court.
Digvijay Singh, the counsel for the petitioner Vinod Kumar, a resident of the Nayagram Gram Panchayat told UNI that an interim order of the High Court means that any construction undertaken on the project should be at the risk of the project proponent.
Under this project 14.8 Km long tunnel would be dig out through a geologically fragile and ecologically rich terrain and petitioner has challenged the Stage II (final) Forest Clearance (FC) accorded by Ministry of Environment and Forests on the grounds that clearance has been granted in violation of the conditions set by the MoEF's Forest Advisory Committee while granting the Stage I clearance to the project.
The petitioner has contested that the FC has been granted despite the project not having adhered to the Ministry's own circular regarding compliance with the Forest Rights Act, issued on August 3, 2009.
The Cumulative Environment Impact Assessment for the Ravi river basin has also not been conducted by the state government. Both these were among the 18 conditions specified in the stage I clearance given to the project on the 8th July, 2011.
The MoEF circular mandates the approval of all the concerned Gram Sabhas to accompany any proposal submitted to the ministry for diversion of forest land under the provisions of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.
The Gram Sabha of Nayagram Gram Panchayat had passed a resolution opposing the project in the month of July 2012 as it apprehend that the project would have a severe adverse impact on their daily lives, livelihoods, agriculture and forest rights.
The petitioner's contention puts a question mark on the role of the MoEF as well as the state government which have to ensure adherence to the MoEF's circular while submitting any project proposal for forest clearance.
The court has issued notices to the project proponent, the state government and the Ministry of Environment and Forests to clarify their position on shifting of the project components, non-compliance of Forest Rights Act and conditions specified in the stage I forest clearance.
Rahul Saxena of the Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective alleged that Evidence from hydroelectric projects in the state reveals that underground blasting for tunnels and power houses has caused drying up of natural water sources and reduction in soil moisture, to the detriment of the local population and agriculture.
The local people of the Holi area in the Chamba district have been opposing the project due to its unjustified shifting of important project components like the head race tunnel and power house from the uninhabited right bank of the Ravi river to the left bank where almost all of the population of the five affected panchayats lives.
According to the pre-feasibility report for the project the head race tunnel for the project was to be constructed along the right bank and the bids for the project had been invited and finalised based upon this design.