Shimla: Charging the government of having succumbed to power producers lobby, environmental organisations have cautioned the Himachal Pradesh government that the amendments carried out in the state hydro-power policy would prove disastrous to the states environment and its people.
A strong group of about 15 environmental organisations, supported by activists have objected to the dilutions made in hydro-power project clearance procedures that the government notified on 4th March, 2014.
Demanding a roll back of the amendment clauses incorporated in the hydro policy, the green lobby has alleged that that policy changes were carried out on the recommendations of a committee set up in 2013 for Speedy Development of Small Hydro Projects to suggest ways to deal with the delays in the execution of hydro-power projects.
The Committee formed was headed by the Chairman, HP Electricity Regulatory Commission (HPERC) and had mostly recommended doing away with several departmental clearances, in order to expedite the implementation of Small Hydro-power Projects. But the notification issued earlier this year covers the big hydro projects as well.
“If this is the case, then we are shocked that the government has made this amendment without taking into account the fact that the mandate of the committee formed in 2013 was only to make recommendations with regard to Small Hydro Power project”, say members of Himdhara, Environment Research and Action Collective, one of the 15 organisations that has submitted a memorandum to the state government.”
The government notification have introduced amendments to fast track clearance procedures by doing away with separate NOCs from Public Works Department (PWD), Irrigation & Public Health Department (IPH), Revenue, Fisheries and Wildlife.
“These NOCs are critical because they recognize the fact that these Hydro-power Projects, both small and large, have serious ecological and social impacts. Water sources do get impacted and affect irrigation and drinking water needs of villages in the project area and a thorough investigation by the irrigation and public health department is critical to determining whether the design is feasible or not from the point of view of the impact on water sources,” says Himdhara members.
Pointing out that there was a conflict of interest in the constitution of the committee that made the recommendations carried out in dilutions made, the green activists alleging biases state that the committee had 6 members from power producers associations ,which included the government agency of HIMURJA but did not have any representation from Department of Science, Technology and Environment or any member from the Forest Department.
The government notification is unconstitutional because it undermines the role of Panchayats, says RS Negi, a former IAS officer who heads the Him Lok Jagriti Manch that is mainly active in the tribal belt of Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti. “It is also in clear violation of 2006 Forest Rights Act and 1998 PESA Act which protect the democratic rights of Gram Panchayats by making No Objection Certificate mandatory for any development activity,” said Negi.
The groups have demanded that the March 2014 notification be withdrawn and that the government should carry out a series of public consultations before amending the Hydro-power Policy 2006.
The organisations that have signed the memorandum include: People’s Voice and Secretary General, Himachal Angling Association, Palampur; Him Lok Jagriti Manch, Kinnaur; Jan Jagran evam Vikas Samiti, Haripur, Kullu; Paryavaran evam Jan Chetna Kendra, Chamba; Urban Tribal & Hills Advancement Society (UTHAN), Kangra; People’s Action for People in Need, Sirmaur; Paryavaran evam Grameen Vikas Samiti, Karsog; Himalaya Niti Abhiyan; People’s Campaign for Socio-economic Equity in Himalayas, Kangra; Paryavaran and Kisan Vikas Samiti, District Shimla; Childline, Chamba; Pandoh Visthapit Kalyan Samiti, Mandi and Social Upliftment Through Rural Action (SUTRA), Solan.