The Main Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has postponed the hearing of an appeal against the Environmental Clearance (EC) granted by the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Climate Change (MoEFCC) to the Vishnugad Hydropower Project -444 MW Pipalkoti in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand until March 31.
The plea filed by Dr Bharat Jhunjhunwala and others said that the initial CO was granted to the project which is situated on an area of 141,568 ha by M/s THDC India Limited located at Village Haat, Tehsil Joshimath in the district of Chamoli on August 22, 2007, for ten years, which has obtained further extensions until now.
However, the project has not been operationalized and is still under construction. The project is financed by the World Bank. Out of a total cost of around Rs 3,800 crore, more than 50% of the costs have already been incurred, he said.
Earlier on October 8, 2021, the NGT had issued a notice to the Ministry of Environment on the matter seeking the opinion of an expert from the Expert Assessment Committee (EAC) for Hydropower and Valley of River.
According to the plea, the cost-benefit analysis (CBA) is in favor of abandoning the project. The public hearing waiver is not necessary or valid because the project is not 50% complete, as required for such a waiver, he argued. He further stated that the EAC had not undertaken a proper assessment of the mitigation measures.
“This has undergone a rapid environmental impact assessment ignoring the shortcomings, in particular the impacts of soil erosion, blasting, declining water quality, loss of aesthetic values and loss of aquatic biodiversity. These impacts have not been properly assessed or included in the CBA,” the plea reads.
The Vishnugad Pipalkoti Hydroelectric Project (VPHEP) is a 444 megawatt (MW) run-of-river hydroelectric generation project on the Alaknanda River, which is a tributary of the Ganges.