Shimla:With the Ministry of Forest and Environment (MOEF) having put its foot down by disallowing diversion of high density forest lands for the Renuka Dam project, the very future the national project that intends to meet the growing water needs of Delhi, stands sealed.
A highly place forest department official confirmed have received a letter from MOEF which categorically states that it â€œhas declined to accept the recommendation of the Forest Advisory Committee (for diversion of 774 hectares of forest areas for the storage dam project) as the proposal involves high-density forest area requiring felling of a very large number of trees.â€
On conditions of anonymity, he said, â€œAs far as we in the forest department are concerned, fate of the Renuka Dam project is sealed unless MOEF changes its stance.â€
Manshi Asher, from the Environment Research and Action Collective, Palampur â€“ a group opposing the project points out, â€œthough the decision to decline permission for diversion of forest lands for the project was taken on August 31, but it has been kept under wraps.â€
She added â€œthe project was being pushed strongly by Delhi and Himachal governments in the name of National Interest, against the interests of the local population.â€
â€œThe very project needs to be canceled,â€ says Puran Chand, a member of local grouping Renuka Bandh Sangharsh Samiti (RBSS) who are opposing the dam project.
HP Power Corporation Ltd (HPPCL), mandated with construction of the storage dam project that proposes to supply water to meet the growing needs of the national capital region, however, is still upbeat.
Traun Kapoor, MD HPPCL says, â€œSince receiving the letter, we are again surveying the forest area so as to re-assess the number of trees being affected by the dam construction plans. We will then again approach Ministry of Forest and Environment for permissions to divert forest lands for the project, which has been declared a national project.
He adds that the environment clearance accorded to the project in October 2009, has not been withdrawn and the Supreme Court has already permitted usage of the Renuka wildlife sanctuary area for the project.
The dam involves diversion of 774 hectares of forest lands but local groups which include RBSS, Himalaya Niti Abhiyan and others have been opposing the dam and have made representations before Jairam Ramesh, MOEF minister and Shiela Dixit, Delhi chief minister.
A population spread over 37 villages will be adversely impacted by the dam project, says Puran Chand.