Cloud of uncertainty over U'khand hydel projects

Cloud of uncertainty over U'khand hydel projects

Floods have damaged two projects on Mandakini river

Last month’s deluge in Uttarakhand severely damaged two major hydro-power projects on the Mandakini river, raising questions on the future of several hydel-power plants in the hilly state which are under various stages of development and construction.

Incidentally, the two projects — the 99-MWe Singoli-Bhatwari hydro-electric project and the 76-MWe Phata-Byung hydro-project — were under the scanner of green activists, who challenged them in courts for violation of environmental norms.

Constructed on the Mandakini — a major tributary of the Alaknanda — near Rudraprayag, the Singoli-Bhatwari project is being implemented by L&T Uttaranchal Hydro-Power Ltd, while the one in Phata-Byung is a project of Lanco Mandakini Hydro Energy Private Ltd.
Environmentalists associated with Himalayan Chipko Foundation protested against these two projects because of “grave environmental consequences, which will be irreparable and irreversible”.

“Six hydroelectric have been planned on the Mandakini river, where within a span of 50 km, the river will pass through tunnels. Four dams are in the planning stage while in two — the Singoli-Bhatwari and the Phata-Byung — construction has been started,” J P Dabral, president of the foundation, told Deccan Herald. Dabral said last month's flood damaged both projects, justifying their objection against the two hydel-power plants.

When contacted, a Lanco spokesperson said the company did not know the extent of damage as they were unable to reach the site.

 “We don't know how long it would take for us to restart the work as we have not been able to make any assessment. But no lives were lost,” he said.

An L&T Uttaranchal Hydro Power Ltd spokesperson did not respond to Deccan Herald's queries. But the company on its website claimed that the Singoli-Bhatwari project was expected to be commissioned by 2014. Though both projects had all the necessary approvals from the Central and state governments in place, green activists like Dabral challenged those clearances, arguing that they were obtained on the basis of incorrect or inappropriate information.

“The cost-benefit analysis presented by the companies is flawed. It does not take the environmental costs and damages such as drying up of water sources, loss of biodiversity and deterioration of water quality into consideration,” said Dabral, who had moved to the National Green Tribunal against the two projects.

Both companies refuted the environmentalists' claims, alleging that the charges were false and baseless. In 2011, a government monitoring committee inspected the Singoli-Bhatwari project and found its implementation satisfactory on most counts. Lanco, too, denied all charges in a submission to the court.

The Union Environment Ministry had earlier closed the 600-MW Loharinag-Pala, 480-MW Pala-Maneri and 381-MW Bhaironghati projects in Uttarakhand because of possible ecological damages.

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