Panel on Renuka project submits report to NGT

SHIMLA: Paucity of funds for acquiring land for settling the displaced families is the biggest hurdle that is coming in the way of effective and speedy implementation of the relief and rehabilitation plan for the families facing displacement due to the coming up of the Renuka hydro-power project in Sirmaur district.

Pratibha Chauhan

Tribune News Service

Shimla, July 7

Paucity of funds for acquiring land for settling the displaced families is the biggest hurdle that is coming in the way of effective and speedy implementation of the relief and rehabilitation plan for the families facing displacement due to the coming up of the Renuka hydro-power project in Sirmaur district.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) appointed expert committee, which submitted its report to the green body last week, has reportedly stressed the need to repose faith in the families facing the threat of displacement that they will not meet the same fate as the Bhakra and Pong dam oustees, who even after decades are struggling to get alternate land. As such, they have recommended that the relief and rehabilitation plan needs to be implemented at the earliest, notwithstanding the shortage of funds.

It is being expected that the submission of the report before NGT might finally pave the way for the early execution of the Renuka project. The major part of the funding for the project has to come from the Centre and in case the NGT passes an order directing the nodal agency, the Ministry of Water Resources and the Government of India will have to shell out the required amount of funds.

The expert committee headed by Principal Chief Conservator Forest (PCCF) SK Vasudeva visited the project affected area in Renuka on May 19 and 30 earlier this year to assess various environmental and resettlement issues concerning the locals. They met the villagers, environmentalists, panchayat bodies and NGOs espousing the cause of the villagers, whose life would be impacted with the coming up of the project. Some of the affected families along with an NGO have filed a petition against the coming up of the project.

Sources confirmed that Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation Ltd (HPPCL), executing the project, has so far acquired only about one fifth of the total land required to rehabilitate all the displaced families. This obviously has led to a feeling of uncertainty and bleak future among the affected families. The HPPCL has sought Rs 1983.35 crore from the Centre so that the huge amount required for implanting the relief and rehabilitation plan could be met.

As far as the fears of the villagers about ensuring minimum discharge downstream is concerned, the expert committee was satisfied as they felt that the primary objective was to meet the water requirements of the national capital Delhi and the power generation of 40 MW was only a secondary component. A total of 337 families are likely to be displaced due to the coming up of the Renuka dam.

Envisaged to meet the growing water needs of Delhi, the Centre has accorded the status of national importance to the project. However, owing to delay in obtaining environmental clearance due to the large number of trees that would be lost, the cost of the project has already escalated to Rs 5,000 crore.

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