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Uttarakhand power channel leak: Green tribunal seeks report on pollution in villages

Counterview Desk
Taking a serious view of the threat of pollution from the power channel of the Srinagar Hydro Electric project, situated in Pauri Garhwal district, Uttarakhand, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has asked the Uttarakhand government for a report on the leakage in the power channel and the resulting problems. The tribunal has sought the report on a petition filed by Uttam Singh Bhandari and Vimal Bhai, senior activists with the civil rights group Matu Jan Sangathan in Uttarakhand.

A note by Matu Jan Jan Sangathan:

In the petition, it is stated that the power channel (open canal) of the Srinagar Hydro-electric project, which is on the bank of river Alaknanda in Uttarakhand, is four kilometers long. This channel takes Alaknanda's water to the powerhouse to generate electricity. In 2015, there was a serious breach in the canal, and this resulted in damage to crops and houses in Mangsu, Surasu and Naur Thaapli villages in Tehri Garhwal district.
After this, an inquiry was done by the Wadia Institute in Dehradun, which submitted its report on 30th December 2015. The report recommended re-strengthening of the power channel and an investigation into the structural design. However, due to lack of requisite action, there was another breach in December 2018.
In this context, letters were sent to the District Magistrate, Tehri Garhwal and the Uttarakhand Government, but no response was received. The Hon’ble Tribunal has sought a report within one month via email from the Department of Energy of the Government of Uttarakhand, the Uttarakhand State Pollution Control Board and the District Magistrate, Tehri Garhwal, before the next hearing. The State Pollution Control Board has also been given the responsibility for coordination and compliance.
The order has been sent to the three agencies via email so that they can immediately follow it. In addition, the applicants have been asked to furnish a copy of the petition to the three agencies. We have delivered the papers ourselves to all three places.
Uttam Singh Bhandari and Vimal Bhai filed the petition in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) through the lawyers of Life Society, Delhi, namely lawyers Rahul Chaudhry and Meera Gopal.
It is known that the power channel of the Srinagar dam has been continuously causing losses every monsoon since 2015. These villages, on the slopes between the power channel and the river, are always facing dangers. Residents of the area have raised these issues in their letters to the district administration and the company as well as in person.
The issue has also been raised through the local MLA. There has also been coverage of the issue regularly in the media. However, there have been no positive results yet. The dam company tried to repair the leakage then, but requisite action was not taken. The villagers were also not paid any compensation for their losses they suffered during this period.
The Wadia Institute is a reputable institute located in Dehradun, which was asked to study the situation in 2015 by the then MLA. However, the government took no cognition of the report upon submission and did not ensure that the company complied with the recommendations. This should have been done since the people in the three villages in the vicinity are living in constant danger. Since the government took no cognizance of the matter even after three years, we had to approach the National Green Tribunal.

The recommendations of the Wadia Institute:

  • About 200 wide zone (across the affected leakage site of the power Channel must be re-strengthened by consulting with the structural Geologist from Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehradun.
  • Further detailed investigation of the structural design of the Power Channel is needed by the agency like the irrigation Design organisation, Roorkee. During this exercise the consultation should be done with the structural geologist of Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehradun.

Our prayers to the National Green Tribunal:

  1. Direct the Project Proponent to repair the power channel and plug all leakages, after conducting proper study of the power channel.
  2. Direct the Project Proponent to implement the recommendations of the Wadia Institute vide its report dated December 30, 2015. 
  3. Impose environmental compensation on the project proponent, i.e. the Respondent No 4, for the negligence in not taking proper measures to plug the leakage from the power channel and on the authorities for not complying with their statutory duties in ensuring the safety of the lives of the residents of Villages Mangsu, Surasu, Naur Thaapli in Tehri Garhwal district, Uttarakhand who have suffered due to the said leakage. 
We hope that soon the affected villages will be rid of the dangers of the power channel.

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