Shut and opened

By Ravleen Kaur
Published: Tuesday 31 March 2009

Loharinag Pala power project resumes after it was suspended

THE Uttarakhand high court has ordered construction work be resumed at the Loharinag Pala hydroelectric project on the Bhagirathi in Uttarkashi. The order came after environmentalist G D Agarwal succeeded in stalling the 600 megawatt project by going on an indefinite fast. He ended his hunger strike, lasting 37 days, after the Centre assured the project would be suspended. The court has now ordered a stay on the central government's February 19 decision (see 'Ganga basin authority notified', Down To Earth, March 1-15, 2009)

The order was passed on February 26 following a public interest petition filed by Avdhash Kaushal, chairperson of the non-profit, Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra. His petition said thousands of people would lose jobs if the project is suspended.The court asked the Union Ministry of Power, chairperson of National Thermal Power Corporation ( ntpc), advocate M C Mehta, G D Agarwal and activist Swami Chidanand Saraswati to file counter affidavits by the second week of April. The court said the February 19 order of the central government "by which work of Loharinag Pala barrage on the Bhagirathi is suspended, shall not be acted upon till further orders."

Kanwal Jeet Singh, who represented ntpc during the court hearing, said about Rs 450 crore has been spent on the project and closing it would benefit only contractors. Environmentalist and advocate M C Mehta criticized the government for not filing an appeal to revoke the court stay. "The decision, to suspend the project on February 19, was taken after much deliberation," Mehta said. He said the Ganga, a national river, must be protected like the national flag.

"The government is saying it has spent Rs 450 crore. Six weeks later it will say another Rs 200 crore has been spent and push the project through by presenting a fait accompli," said an environmental activist.

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