New Delhi: Nearly two years after the Uttarakhand tragedy, the Supreme Court will on Tuesday begin hearing a case to decide the fate of six proposed hydropower projects in the state.

Following a Supreme Court order in December 2014, the environment ministry has been discussing the six power projects —one each by NTPC Ltd, NHPC Ltd, THDC India Ltd, and GMR Energy Ltd and two projects of Super Hydro.

A four-member committee of the ministry is examining deficiencies, if any, in awarding licences to the projects.

While environmental activists blame hydropower projects for damaging the ecosystem, governments say they are needed for electricity generation in Uttarakhand, a state rich in water resources.

“The issue is not whether these six projects are valid or not. But it is about allowing hydropower projects altogether when committees and expert bodies have repeatedly pointed that these projects are causing extensive damage to the river ecosystem," said Mallika Bhanot of Ganga Ahvaan, a non-profit organization.

The environment ministry, in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court in December, said hydropower projects had directly or indirectly aggravated the impact of the 2013 Uttarakhand floods that killed over 5,000 people and damaged property worth billions of rupees.

The ministry said hydropower projects had caused irreversible damage to the environment, increasing chances of landslides and other natural disasters.

Some experts blame the lack of regulation. “Hydropower projects have destroyed river and its ecological system in fragile Himalayas in Uttarakhand. Supreme Court has directed to check the environmental clearances of the six projects as per the law prevalent at that time but the topography has changed so much after the disaster of 2013, that the previous clearances cannot apply. Such unresearched haphazard activities can become a stimulus for yet another disaster in the future" said Meeta Khillani, an earth scientist at IIT-Roorkee.

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