New Delhi: Considering the international importance of 5,600 MW India-Nepal Pancheshwar multi-purpose project, an expert panel of India’s environment ministry has waived off the requirement of a joint mechanism to assess its environmental impact.
The decision has been taken to avoid delay in the project which is strategically important for India.
Last year in May, when environment ministry’s Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for river valley and hydroelectric projects cleared the terms of reference (ToRs) for the project, it directed for setting up a joint mechanism to assess the environmental impact of the project.
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ToRs are guidelines for conducting green assessments of projects, based on which the ministry grants or rejects green clearance.
However, during its latest meeting on 31 May, EAC felt that a “joint mechanism" could delay the project.
“As far as joint mechanism set up is concerned, the EAC is of the view that as of now and considering the progress of preparation of EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) reports, setting up of the joint mechanism would rather delay the process of this important international project," noted the EAC in its latest meeting.
“Hence, let the public hearing be conducted based on the EIA report for Indian portion and the project proponent may approach the (environment) ministry for final appraisal for environmental clearance," said the committee, as per the minutes of the meeting which were reviewed by Mint.
The EAC had also observed that “skill mapping of the project effected families shall be carried-out and suitable provisions should be made in R&R (Resettlement and Rehabilitation) plan".
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 rock-fill dam, which is 315 metres in height from the deepest foundation level, and is proposed to have two underground powerhouses with an installed capacity of 5,600MW one on each bank of the river. The total submergence area is 11,600 hectares (India’s 7,600 hectares and Nepal’s 4,000 hectares). The project is primarily aimed at energy production; in addition, it will provide water for irrigation.
It is being spearheaded by the Pancheshwar Development Authority (PDA) constituted under Article 10 of the Mahakali Treaty between India and Nepal.