Panel yet to give U'khand project report

Months after the Supreme Court’s restraint order against 24 hydroelectric power projects in Uttarakhand following the June calamity, an expert committee set up by the Centre to review environmental degradation as well as their impact on the bio-diversity of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi river basins has failed to come up with its recommendations.

The Environment Ministry has now appealed to the Supreme Court to further extend the deadline set for the panel till April 14 for submitting its report.

The apex court, on August 13, 2013, directed the government to set up the expert body consisting of representatives from the state government, Central electricity authority, Central water commission and other bodies to assess the environmental degradation due to existing and ongoing construction of hydropower projects and if those projects contributed to the floods.

The panel was asked to submit a report within three months with a draft Himalayan policy for Uttarakhand keeping in mind its unique ecological, social and cultural characteristics and suggesting environment-friendly development activities. Following the direction, the ministry set up the expert body on October 15 last, fixing January 14 as its deadline to submit a report. 

As there was delay in submission of the report by the panel, the ministry was forced to rush to the apex court in December seeking extension of time for it.

The court had then directed the ministry to submit an affidavit detailing the progress made by the panel.

The ministry has now urged the court to grant further extension of time for the panel contending, “The committee has to address terms of references in entirety, examine and study about 70 proposals of hydroelectric power projects, undertake site inspections in Alaknanda and Bhagirathi basins where these projects are proposed, ongoing and commissioned.”

In its order, the apex court had restrained the Centre as well as Uttarakhand from granting any environmental or forest clearance for a hydroelectric power project in the state.

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