Green tribunal stays approval for mini hydel project in Hassan

MoEF had approved it, despite objections by State's PCCF

Green tribunal stays approval for mini hydel project in Hassan

The National Green Tribunal, Southern Zone, has stayed the phase one clearance granted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to a mini hydel power project initiated by Maruthi Power-Gen India Private Limited in the pristine forests of Western Ghats in Sakleshpur taluk, Hassan district.

In its order dated November 20, 2014, the tribunal bench comprising judicial member Justice M Chockalingam and expert member Prof R Nagendran granted interim stay until further orders to the MoEF permission, following a petition by Prashanth G Yavgal that it is necessary to stay the proceedings of the first phase.

“The tribunal is satisfied that a prima facie case is made out for granting interim stay on the phase one clearance issued by respondent 2, the MoEF,” the bench observed.
The applicant submitted that the project is proposed in a biodiversity hotspot.

To circumvent the situation, the project was split into two and presented before the authorities.

It was submitted that after the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF), who is the head of the Forest Force, said that the project should not be allowed, a petition was filed by the firm before the High Court.

The court, in February 2013, directed the firm to submit a fresh proposal and the State government to take a decision in accordance with law.

The applicant submitted that when the State government recommended that the project be rejected and the land lease cancelled, the principal secretary directed the PCCF to submit a fresh application to reconsider the approval.

PCCF recommendation

However, the PCCF recommended not to approve the project, citing technical and conservational reasons. The same was placed before the MoEF, which granted permission for the phase one project, while phase two was kept pending.

The tribunal said, “The Government of Karnataka placed the entire papers before the MoEF. But the MoEF, without considering or caring for the objections raised by the PCCF, Karnataka, granted clearance for the first phase. Under the circumstances, further progress in the first phase should be stayed. If not, it would mean nothing but allowing violations to be carried on.”

The project is coming up at Hongadahalla in Kagneri and Kenchanakumari reserve forests in Sakleshpur taluk.

The region is a fragile rainforest eco-system, where there is documented evidence of several endangered species such as tigers, elephants and hornbills.

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