Negates its earlier order that gave temporary permission to do so
The Tehri Hydro Electric Project in Uttarakhand has entered a new phase of litigation. On Thursday, the Supreme Court declined to allow increase in Tehri dam's water level to 830 metres (mts) as sought by the Tehri Hydro Development Corporation (THDC). The order practically negates an earlier order of August 2010 which granted temporary permission for increasing the water level to 830 mts. The Additional Solicitor General of India, arguing for the THDC, had sought final order confirming the earlier permission.
But the apex court said that without the rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) of the affected villages being completed, it cannot take a decision. There is a fresh demand for R&R for residents of 27 villages that have been found to be impacted by landslides caused by increase in height of the dam reservoir level.
“You want to produce electricity to run the air conditioners in Delhi, but do not consider R&R of the affected persons important. We are here to protect Article 21 of the Constitution of India, that is the Right to Life of persons,” said Justice A K Patnaik in his order.
In August 2010, the court allowed raising the water level to 830 mts with the condition that the affected villages would be resettled and rehabilitated first. Twenty-seven villages will be affected by landslides caused by increase in water storage level. These villages are above the 830 mts level and were not part of the original list of affected villages.
Since 2007, the Uttarakhand government has been demanding that these villages must be brought under the R&R package as they are impacted by landslides caused due to water in the reservoir. On the other hand, THDC says that only three villages will be covered under the project's compensation package. An expert committee set up by the state government found this after being told about it by the court. The committee also recommended these villages be covered under the project's R&R plan.
The court has asked the state government and the TDHC to work out the compensation issue. This will be contentious because the corporation is not agreeing to the compensation demand while the state government says that it has not been given the money to take up R&R. The court's stand has been consistent: no permission to increase height without completion of R&R.
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