The Supreme Court on Tuesday called for maintaining a balance between development and environmental protection, while reiterating that care and precaution must be taken in clearing hydro-power projects in the Himalayan region to prevent any catastrophe.
Hearing matters concerning 24 stalled hydroelectricity projects in the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi river basins, a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and V Gopala Gowda allowed the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) four weeks to deliberate on two reports submitted by a panel on the 2013 Uttarakhand flood tragedy.
A committee headed by Ravi Chopra, director of the Dehradun-based People’s Science Institute, formed on the direction of the apex court in August last year, reportedly recommended dropping of 23 projects, claiming that they played a significant role in the disaster. Two members of the committee, however, had submitted a separate report.
The apex court on August 13 last year restrained the Centre as well as the Uttarakhand government from granting any environmental or forest clearance to a hydroelectric power project in the state, while expressing concern over the Uttarakhand disaster, which resulted in huge losses to life and property. The court had stayed 24 out of 39 projects.
As arguments and counter arguments over banning power projects were placed in the court on Tuesday, the bench said, “We have to strike a balance. There was a catastrophe in the region. Directions were issued. Care and precaution must be taken in dealing with those projects.
“How many projects can be cancelled, how much money has been spent into those projects—all these factors have to be considered.”