Green ministry clears Pancheshwar project impact assessment guidelines

Pancheshwar multi-purpose project is envisaged to be built on the river Mahakali, known as Sarada in India, which divides Nepal from Uttarakhand


The project is primarily aimed at energy production; in addition, it will provide water for irrigation. Photo: Reuters
The project is primarily aimed at energy production; in addition, it will provide water for irrigation. Photo: Reuters

New Delhi: To ensure that an environmental impact study for the 5,600-MW India-Nepal Pancheshwar multi-purpose project is not delayed, an expert panel of the environment ministry has cleared the terms of reference (ToR) for the project.

The panel, however, called for setting up a joint mechanism for assessing the environmental impact of the project.

The Pancheshwar multi-purpose project is envisaged to be built on the river Mahakali (known as Sarada in India), which divides the far western development region of Nepal from Uttarakhand in India. The project includes a dam and will have two underground powerhouses, one on each bank of the river.

The project is primarily aimed at energy production; in addition, it will provide water for irrigation.

“Due to moderation of flood peak at reservoirs, incidental flood control benefits for both India and Nepal are also envisaged from the project,” said a senior environment ministry official, who did not wish to be named.

The official said the project shouldn’t find it difficult to secure environmental clearance, given that it is a joint effort by India and Nepal, and that the site doesn’t fall under an ecosensitive zone.

The project is being spearheaded by the Pancheshwar Development Authority (PDA) constituted under Article-10 of the Mahakali Treaty between India and Nepal. PDA, a joint entity of India and Nepal, gave a detailed presentation on the project to the expert appraisal committee (EAC) for river valley and hydroelectric projects on 2 May.

After the detailed deliberations, the EAC noted that under the present dispensation there is no provision for giving TORs (Terms of Reference) for part of any project.

“Since this is a special case where a project is proposed to be implemented by a joint establishment agreed to by India and Nepal the matter needs a special consideration. In order to ensure that studies on preparation of EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) are not delayed, the EAC recommends ToR for the portion of project falling in India,” said the minutes of the EAC’s meeting accessed by Mint.

ToRs are guidelines specified for conducting environmental impact studies of projects, based on which the environment ministry grants or rejects environment clearance to a project.

The expert committee, however, cleared the ToRs subject to a a joint mechanism being set up for assessing the environmental impact of the project.

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