The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has dismissed an appeal against the stage one clearance given by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to THDCIL for diverting 80.5 hectares of forest land for the construction of the Vishnugad Pipalkoti Hydroelectric Project (VPHEP).
As per its judgment order dated 14 December 2011, the NGT, under the Chair of the Hon’ble Justice Shri C. V. Ramulu, disposed off the appeal filed in July 2011 against the approval granted by Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of MoEF.
The appeal, filed by Shri Vimal Bhai, Shri Bharat Jhunjhunwala and Shri Briharshraj Tariyal, was heard over several sittings by the NGT before the Chair of Hon’ble Justice Shri C.V. Ramulu (Judicial Member) and Hon’ble Dr. Devendra Kumar Agrawal, (Expert Member). The NGT concluded that “there are no substantial merits calling for our interference into the FC, in question”. The appeal accordingly stands disposed of.
The verdict states the Environment Impact Assessment/Environment Management Plan studies of the Project were prepared in 2006, the Public Hearing for the project was held in the month of January 2007 and the environmental clearance was accorded in August 2007. Further, additional studies entailing detailed field investigation, community consultations and consolidation of previous studies on environmental issues were also conducted as per World Bank guidelines.
In addition, the verdict also notes that VPHEP has pioneered numerous other good practices in order to minimize the negative impacts on people living in the project area and to the natural environment. In this context it mentions THDCIL’s retaining a reputed NGO, Shri Bhubaneshwari Mahila Ashram, to interact with local communities; the mandatory use of a Tunnel Boring Machine to reduce noise and dust disturbance;, the translation of the entire Environmental Impact Assessment into Hindi in order to make it more accessible to local people; THDCIL’s decision to pay a fuel and fodder allowance to compensate local villagers for loss of access to forest land;, provisions to impart vocational training to the local youth and scholarships to children from the project-affected area.
The World Bank has already sanctioned a loan amounting to US$ 648 million for VPHEP.