Under pressure from PMO, Jairam clears Madhya Pradesh hydro project

May 6th, 2011 - 9:04 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, May 6 (IANS) Under pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the environment ministry said Friday it had cleared the 400 MW Maheshwar hydroelectric power project on the Narmada river in Madhya Pradesh despite non-compliance of conditions given at the time of green clearance.

Lifting the ministry’s stop-work order of April 2010, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said he had no choice but to agree to lifting the order in view of the decisions taken at various meetings convened by the PMO in response to the communications received from Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and other dignitaries.

“I have no option but to agree to the lifting of the stop-work order on the construction of the last five spillway gates,” Jairam Ramesh said in statement.

He, however, said that these gates shall not be lowered until satisfactory completion of resettlement and rehabilitation and its review.

“The filling of reservoir up to 154 meters will be considered after the resettlement and rehabilitation work has been completed,” he said.

The stop-work order was issued after it was found that the Shree Maheshwar Hydel Power Corporation had failed to meet its resettlement and rehabilitation obligations of thousands of people living in nine villages whose homes or land will be submerged by the dam.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), which has been spearheading protest against the project, alleged that while over 80 percent of construction work on the dam was completed, the company has still not provided agricultural land to a single oustee.

There are 27 gates in the Maheshwar project, out of which 22 had already been installed and operational prior to February 2010.

According to Jairam Ramesh, during the last one year, a lot of communications were exchange between the PMO and the Madhya Pradesh chief minister to recommence the work on the project on the grounds that it will not only produce power but also supply drinking water to Indore and Dewas areas in the state.

The minister said that most recent review of the project was conducted by the PMO on May 2 and after that meeting, the Central Water Commission (CWC) sent a technical report to the environment ministry recommending installation of the rest five gates to avoid damage to the existing construction in the event of breach of coffer dam due to a monsoon flood.

“On one hand, there are technical reports of the CWC concluding the need to complete the remaining five gates soon before the monsoon from an engineering safety stand point. On the other hand, there is no denying the poor progress of the rehabilitation,” he added.

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