M A I N   N E W S

NTPC, HP lock horns
Dumping of Kol Dam muck in Sutlej
Prabhjot Singh & Mahesh Sharma
Tribune News Service

Kol Dam, February 24
While teams of experts of the Himachal Forest Department as well as of the State Pollution Control Board have been camping here for the past few days to critically examine any violation of the Forest Conservation Act in the dumping of excavated material of Kol Dam in the Sutlej, the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) maintains that no direction or guideline of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has been overlooked.

Special investigating teams descended here only after The Tribune last week highlighted dumping of muck along the banks of the Sutlej river. A team of experts from the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) had reportedly visited the site. Flowing of muck into the Sutlej is being viewed seriously by the Bhakra Board because of its adverse impact on the deeply silted Gobind Sagar reservoir. Another team of the BBMB headed by a Chief Engineer is expected here soon.

“We are examining the whole thing minutely. Necessary action will be taken in case there is any violation of the Forest Conservation Act or the environment laws,” remarked a senior officer of the state government holding that the issue was discussed at the senior level in Shimla yesterday.

“We are responsible corporate citizens,” held Mr T.K. Chatterjee, General Manager of the Kol Dam Hydro Power Project, “ and our rehabilitation and resettlement plan will be a model. Our Rs 65 crore Catchment Area Treatment Plan is the biggest plan for any power project in the country for which we have used satellite imagery for developing the model. We share nation’s ecological and environmental concerns and will not do anything that violates the laid down norms or laws.”

“We also have in place a compensatory afforestation plan for which we have already deposited money with the Forest Department. Out of two lakh cubic metre of muck that came out of the excavated tunnels, one lakh cubic metre would go in the dead reservoir end,” he said.

The Himachal State Pollution Control Board, which is headed by the Forest and Environment Minister of the state, has also taken a serious view of the alleged violations maintaining that at no stage it was told about dumping of muck along the river.

The Pollution Board team today also made a video film of the dumping sites.The NTPC officials, however, maintain that after they met senior functionaries of the northern region office of the Ministry of Environment and Forests in January , 2002, they took up clearance of dumping sites with the Union Ministry on May 8, 2002.

It was decided at the January 24 meeting in Chandigarh that the project authorities — NTPC — will select the sites for dumping of excavated muck well in advance and take prior approval of the ministry. Interestingly, after the May 8 meeting, the NTPC authorities proposed six dumping sites on May 9 and after a technical objection was raised, submitted an amended proposal and on May 15 — in record six days — got the clearance.

Though at the January 24 meeting, the regional office had maintained that no dumping of muck would be permitted along any river, water channel or nullah, the six sites proposed by the NTPC on May 9 and 13 were all along the river.

Even in its unprecedented express clearance, the Ministry of Environment and Forests put a couple of riders insisting that after the completion of the dam, the dumping sites would form a part of the dead storage of the reservoir and would not flow into river. Temporary dumping area for emergency dumping, identified between the road and the river, would be provided with a masonary wall, if required, to prevent the material going into the river.

It further held that dumping sites of excavated material should be rehabilitated by levelling, filling up of burrow pits, landscaping and properly afforested with suitable plantation.

A Tribune team visited the dumping sites yesterday. Except for two small pockets, little has been done to landscape or afforest the dumping sites along the river bank. Though retaining walls of stones embedded in wire mesh have been provided along the river bed, but nowhere any masonary walls have been raised between the road and the river. The excavation of two 14 metre tunnels, each one about 1 km long, has long been completed. The masonary work is being completed in the tunnels.

Though NTPC officials claimed that they have done some ipomoea plantation on muck-based embankments, but in reality only freshly cut twigs had been put up there to mislead inspecting teams. 


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