National Green Tribunal (NGT) Okays Lower Subansiri Dam Expert Panel

National Green Tribunal (NGT) Okays Lower Subansiri Dam Expert Panel


NEW DELHI: In a significant development, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday dismissed the petition of Assam Public Works (APW) seeking reconstitution of the expert committee to look into the safety aspects of the 2000-MW Lower Subansiri Dam being built by the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC).

The tribunal in an order said, “We have not found any material on record justifying the plea of bias. The EAC has conducted the appraisal. The Competent Authority has agreed with the same.

“Mere association of organizations with the project in professional capacity is not enough to hold that any Expert who worked in such association will have an institutional bias. Accordingly, we do not find any merit in the applications and the same are dismissed.”

The order was issued by a bench comprising Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, Justice SP Wangdi, Justice K Ramakrishnan and expert member Dr Nagin Nanda.

“This is totally surprising. We will move the Supreme Court in the next one week,” said APW president Abhijeet Sharma.

Interestingly, the NGT in its last hearing last week had reportedly asked the government to appoint a few independent members in the expert committee. The expert committee was set up by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.

The NGT, in its order issued on Wednesday, said, “It is not the case of the applicant that any of the experts have any pecuniary interest or personal interest. Pre-disposition which may disable a person from going into the merits may also be bias but no such pre-disposition has been shown. The plea of the applicant is farfetched. Moreover, the present Committee has only a recommendatory role. There is safeguard of further evaluation by experts. The project is to advance public interest.”

Earlier, the NHPC had also opposed the petition opposing the expert committee by stating that the members of the Expert Committee are highly qualified and there was no basis for attributing any bias to them.

The NHPC has said that Dr Prabhas Pande and Dr ID Gupta had given declaration of ‘No Conflict of Interest’. PM Scott is from the north-eastern region itself and well versed with the rivers and riverine basin in the Brahmaputra region.

The cost of the project as assessed in December, 2002 was Rs 6,285.33 crore. Due to delay, the cost has already gone to Rs. 18,000 crore. A sum of Rs. 9,610 crore has already been invested.

“50 per cent of the work has been completed till December, 2011. Each day delay was causing loss of Rs 10 crore. The project has been duly cleared by all the statutory authorities and is for flood moderation and electricity generation which is to promote public interest. The delay has resulted in huge arbitration cases against the NHPC. The project will benefit the States of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh by way of free power,” the NHPC had earlier told the NGT.

The work for the Lower Subansiri project had been halted for last several years following agitation raised against the dam by several organisations including the APW, the All Assam Students Union (AASU) and the Krishak Mukti sangram Samiti (KMSS).

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