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NGT stays Lakhwar project, asks panel to appraise it afresh

NGT stays Lakhwar project, asks panel to appraise it afresh
Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways, Shipping and Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation Nitin Gadkari with chief ministers of six states, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana. (Express Photo: Prem Nath Pandey)

More than four months after the Centre revived the Lakhwar Multipurpose Project, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) Thursday stayed the project, directing the Expert Appraisal Committee to “appraise the project afresh” by April 15.

“…direct the EAC to appraise the project afresh in terms of EIA notification 2006 and impose additional general and specific conditions as may be considered necessary. EAC will be free to call for any reports which it may consider necessary. EAC is further directed to complete the appraisal by 15.04.2019. Till the project is reappraised status quo shall be maintained,” a bench headed by Justice Raghuvendra Rathore noted.

In August 2018, Union Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari signed an MoU with chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Delhi and revived work on the dam project in Uttarakhand. The 204-m concrete dam was slated to come up in the upper Yamuna basin near Lohari village in the state and is aimed at providing water for domestic and industrial use in the six basin states.

However, the green tribunal on Thursday halted plans till a fresh look at the project for a green nod. “After considering the pleadings and materials on record, we are of the considered opinion that the clarifications given by the Project Proponent, the report of the expert Committee and finding of various studies need to be looked into and studied by the EAC and project needs to be reappraised in terms of EIA notification, 2006,” the bench noted.

In 2015, a plea submitted in the NGT pointed out that the environmental clearance letter granted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) in 1987 was an approval for the composite Lakhwar-Vyasi project, which has since been bifurcated. It referred to an expert appraisal committee meeting held on November 11 and 12, 2010, in which it said that several issues were raised.

The Indian Express had reported previously on the minutes of the EAC meeting that discussed the 300 MW Lakhwar Hydro Electric Project. It noted: “It is quite obvious the developers have submitted piecemeal documents with no linkage, particularly on the environment aspects.” Further, it said, “In view of the facts that part construction of Lakhwar dam complex is already done, the environmental impacts have already occurred. How do the developers address this issue?”

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