Hydro Projects

Relocate Hydro Projects: Supreme Court

March 2, 2020

Expressing anxiety on lives being endangered due to hydro projects, the Supreme Court recently suggested relocating projects that endanger lives.

An SC bench headed by Chief Justice SA. Bobde and Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant said, "There is a need for power and there is also need for protecting the lives of the people."

The Supreme Court observation came on GMR's application on resuming the construction of Alaknanda Hydro Electric Project in Uttarakhand.

The construction work has remained suspended since May 7, 2014, following the devastating 2013 flood.

The Uttarakhand government said the project is amiable and that it is extremely essential for the region, which has become a power deficit region from a power surplus one.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan opposed the construction of this project.

Representing Uttarakhand environmentalist Emmanuel Theophilus, Bhushan argued that the project may have harrowing impact on local livelihoods and aquatic biodiversity.

"The government, instead of investing in large-scale hydel projects should explore alternate forms energy," Bhushan said.

In its observation, the Supreme Court said that it is a natural tendency of state governments to grab projects.

"Maybe the government considers these projects in public interest," the SC bench observed.

Further, CJI Bobde asked the Uttarakhand government if it could consider relocating the project.

CJI Bobde also asked the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) to look at the overall requirement, which includes power requirements and additional cost etc.

"You, as a national body, could look at the overall requirement, which includes power requirements and additional cost etc," Bobde said.

"Consider relocating it. Power can be transmitted across the states and countries," he added.

Citing the adverse effects of illegal sand mining in Kerala CJI Bobde said, "You know what happened in Kerala, there is something called sand mining, which eroded the bed of the river."

"That mud does not go down, instead it piles up then it is a problem in Periyar River," he said.

"Our anxiety is for the lives, and they should not be endangered (in hydro projects)," he added.

"If it is necessary to relocate then the Centre could request the state government, as there is a larger interest to guard the interests of the people," the SC reiterated.

"We are not talking about abandoning it, instead suggesting relocating the project," the SC said.

GMR counsel, however, insisted the project of national importance is lying stranded and it is in the public interest - environmentally and economically.

"The idea of relocation may not succeed," the GMR counsel said.

Furthermore, Prashant Bhushan contended that wind and solar efficiency is increasing, and the usage of energy-efficient devices is also increasing.

"Therefore, the Uttarakhand government should explore wind energy and solar energy," Bhushan said.

Citing the usage of renewable energy, CJI Bobde said, "This thermal power plant should be stopped, you cannot breathe in that city."

Supreme Court also emphasized on adopting energy models that comply with principles of sustainable development.

Stating that the entire Ganga River Basin is a seismic zone, the MoEF insisted that no adverse construction should be carried out to make it unstable.

The Supreme Court asked the MoEF to file a detailed reply and adjourned the matter for four weeks.

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