Alaknanda-Badrinath hydroelectric project challenged in green tribunal

Any development in the region will have irreversible negative impacts on ecology and wildlife, say activists demanding scrapping of project

Activists have challenged the Union environment ministry’s in-principle clearance to the proposed 300 MW hydroelectric project on the Alaknanda river before the National Green Tribunal. The project in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand is proposed three km downstream of the Hindu pilgrimage centre Badrinath. The project site is in the buffer zone of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve (NDBR), which has two World Heritage Sites—Nanda Devi National Park and Valley of flowers—and is home to endangered plant and animal species, including the snow leopard and Himalayan brown bear.

A petition, seeking quashing of the project, has been filed by Vimal Bhai of Matu Jansangthan, a social organisation and Bharat Jhunjhunwala, economist and former professor of IIM, Bengaluru in Delhi on January 31. The petitioners challenged the forest clearance accorded  to the project, saying it is a threat to biodiversity in the region and has been rejected twice by the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC), the statutory body of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) that recommends forest clearances.

Expert panel stipulations
  Union environment ministry's Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for River Valley and Hydro-power projects, which met on December 26 and 27, 2011, made the following recommendations for the project:
  • Environmental flow of 1 cubic metre per second (cumec) shall be maintained during lean season—October 15 to May 10—and that from May 11 to October 14, the environmental flow shall be 5 cumec. This will be over and above the spillage that takes place during monsoon.
  • Two openings in the dam shall be kept to ensure environmental flows. One opening shall be for maintaining minimum environmental flow of 1 cumec which will be ungated and unhindered. The other will be gated which will be operated when higher environmental flows of 5 cumec are to be released.
  • A continuous system for monitoring environmental flow shall be provided.

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