Wednesday, April 25, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Ministerial group for limited mobility

New Delhi, April 24
The Ministerial Group on Telecom and IT (GoT-IT) was today understood to have favoured limited mobility on basic telephones at Rs 1.20 per call and decided to submit its recommendations to the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, tomorrow.

Endorsing the recommendations made by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on limited mobile service through wireless in local loop, GoT-IT finalised its report keeping in mind the objective of giving the benefits of new technology to commoners at the cheapest possible prices, a participant of the ministerial group meeting said. PTIBack

Nathpa Jhakri work comes to a halt
Objections from Ministry of Forests, Environment
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 24
The objective of striving for a clean and green project environment with minimal ecological and social disturbance notwithstanding, the Ministry of Forests and Environment has reportedly got the ongoing work on the Nathpa Jhakri 1,500 MW project stopped for “serious and continuous violations of both the Forest Conservation Act and the Environment Act”.

The work has been stopped on the direction of Mr Dinesh Kumar Sharma, Chief Conservator (Central), Ministry of Forests and Environment.

When contacted, Mr Sharma confirmed that the Nathpa Jhakri Power Corporation had been repeatedly “overlooking letters and instructions on important issues relating to the Forest Conservation Act and the Environment Act.”

“We have been writing to them since 1993 but to no avail. The corporation has not sought any permission for depositing the debris of the 27 km-long tunnel along the bank of the Sutlej and that, too, at a steep angle.

“Further, no permission has been sought for quarrying and mining in the forest area, which is in violation of the Supreme Court order in civil writ petition number 202 . The corporation, thus, does not have permission to use 25 hectares both for the dumping of debris and the use of the area for mining, quarrying and crushing of stone,” he added.

Mr Yogendra Prasad, Chairman-cum-Managing Director of the corporation, confirmed that work on the project had been stopped because of certain objections raised by the Union Ministry of Forests and Environment. 

“We may be allowed partially by the Union Ministry to resume work till formal permission on a couple of issues is obtained,” he said maintaining that immediately after he took over on April 1 this year, he was told that the corporation had either not applied for mandatory permission in certain cases under the Forest Conservation Act and the Environment Act or this was still in the pipeline.

“The persons concerned, who should have obtained such permission, have been pulled up,” he says.

“We are, however, hopeful that the project, which is scheduled for completion in March, 2003, will be fully operational by June, 2003. We had a meeting with the Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister, Mr Prem Kumar Dhumal, on the subject. We are taking all steps to expedite the grant of permission,” he added.

Mr Prasad maintained that since it was an important issue concerning a major project involving both the Centre and the Himachal Pradesh Government, he had discussed it with the Union Power Minister. The Union Government has 75 per cent stake in the project while Himachal has the remaining 25 per cent.

“Unfortunately, we did not apply for permission in some cases. They have objected to the dumping of debris, an issue which has been partly sorted out. The other one relates to quarrying, mining and stone crushing. We hope to get the necessary permission soon. The case has already been moved with the Himachal Pradesh Government. After clearance, it will go to the Union Ministry. It could not be done today because the Himachal Pradesh Chief Secretary was not available,” Mr Prasad said.

The Ministry of Forests and Environment had sent a team of two Deputy Directors — Mr H.S. Sohal (Forest Conservation) and Dr Surinder Kumar (Environment) — to the site for an on-the-spot study of the problems there.

Mr Sohal confirmed that he went there but refused to divulge details of his report which, he said, was being submitted to the Ministry.

Mr Dinesh Sharma maintained that for such a huge project no provision for rehabilitation of the forest area was being made. Both quarrying and mining in the forest area and the deposit of debris on the banks of Sutlej were serious matters as such activities could lead to a multitude of problems downstream.

Mr S.K. Pande, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Dr Pankaj Khullar, Additional Chief Conservator of Forests, and Mr P.K. Singh (Conservator, Planning) — all of the Himachal Pradesh Forest Department were not available for comment as they were either on tour or not in their offices.

The Union Ministry of Forests and Environment intervenes in serious cases after the state Forest and Environment Department fails to act or is unable to take concrete action in the case of continuous violations.

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