No one wants power plants, but everyone wants bijli: SC

NEW DELHI (TIP): Seeking to draw the line on litigation against power projects, the Supreme Court expressed unhappiness over resulting delays and cost escalations while dismissing a plea challenging a hydroelectric project on the Alaknanda river in Uttarakhand.

The court observed that it is ironical that while power projects face opposition from the moment they appear on a drawing board, every citizen wants uninterrupted power supply. The court’s views will come as a relief to the government that has been facing sustained protests from activists and a section of environmentalists who have used legal devices and organized agitations against projects like the Kudankulam nuclear power plant. Dismissing a petition challenging the Vishnugad- Pipalkoti hydro-electric project, a bench of Justices H L Dattu and Ranjan Gogoi said: “The moment a power project is to start, litigation is filed in court. If initially the project cost is Rs 1,000 crore, it escalates to Rs 10,000 crore over the years and tax-payers money is wasted.” Environmentalist Vimal Bhai had challenged the validity of the clearance for Vishnugad-Pipalkoti project. In September 2, 2009, the state government approved diversion of 80.507 hectares of government forest land for the project and on June 3, 2011, stage-I clearance under the forest (conservation) act was granted project by the Union ministry of environment and forest ( MoEF).

Petitioner’s counsel Anitha Shenoy based her arguments on the sustainable development principle oftcited by the court itself and said when guidelines are not followed properly, stage-I clearance should be quashed. The bench, however, found no force behind the argument that the project lacks a cumulative impact assessment. “We really wonder what people in this country say. They say we don’t want hydroelectric plant or a nuclear power plant, but everybody wants bijli (electricity),” the bench said, The petitioner had earlier moved the National Green Tribunal, which found no fault in the clearance given to the project which is designed to be a 65 metre tall diversion dam, being developed by Tehri Hydro Development Corporation.

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