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Environment Ministry’s panel recommends clearance to 1856 MW Sawlakote Project

Positive development towards exploitation of water share under IWT

*JKSPDC to submit 6 monthly reports on vital aspects
Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Feb 25: As a sequel to the decision to step up exploitation of India’s share of water under Indus Water Treaty (IWT), the Expert Appraisal Committee of Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has recommended vital clearance to 1856 Mega Watts Sawlakote Hydroelectric Project on River Chenab in Ramban district. However, the panel has laid stress on submission of six monthly compliance reports on some essential environment related aspects.
Highly placed official sources told EXCELSIOR that Expert Appraisal Committee for River Valley and Hydroelectric Projects after detailed deliberations and considering all the facts of 1856 Mega Watts Sawlakote Hydroelectric Project has recommended grant of environment clearance with certain conditions.
Though the final decision on granting clearance will be taken by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests yet Ministry rarely overturns the recommendations of the Expert Appraisal Committee, sources said, adding the objective behind creation of Expert Appraisal Committee was to give expert advice to the Ministry as such the question of rejecting or modifying its recommendations doesn’t arise.
“With the recommendations of Expert Appraisal Committee the much-delayed Sawlakote Hydroelectric Project has crossed the final hurdle in the execution of work at the required pace”, sources said.
It is pertinent to mention here that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already issued directions to his Government to step up exploitation of India’s share of water under the Indus Water Treaty (IWT). Signed by India and Pakistan in 1960, IWT gives a detailed framework for sharing the waters from the Beas, Ravi, Sutlej, Indus, Chenab and Jhelum rivers. However, due to lack of focus on construction of power projects India was not obtaining much benefit despite having huge power generation potential.
About the conditions laid down in the recommendations of Expert Appraisal Committee, sources said, “none of these conditions is stringent and all can be easily met by the project executing agency. Moreover, these conditions are those which even no project executing agency would like to avoid”.
The Expert Appraisal Committee has laid stress on online monitoring system for the e-flow releases, disposal of plastic waste by recycling and not by land filling, resettlement and rehabilitation of project affected population as per the J&K State R&R Policy, suitable compensation for the land acquired for the project and fulfillment of all the commitments made during the public hearing.
Moreover, the Committee has asked for skill mapping for the youth of the project affected areas and subsequent trainings so as to facilitate their engagement in the project, sources said, adding the Committee has specifically asked for submission of six monthly compliance reports to its Regional Office at Chandigarh without fail until completion of the works.
Being constructed by Jammu and Kashmir State Power Development Corporation Limited, the project envisages construction of 192.5 meter high concrete gravity dam to utilize water of Chenab River. The installed capacity of the power house will be 1856 MW (6×225 MW and 1×56 MW for Stage-I and 2×225 MW for Stage-II).
According to the official details, the copy of which is available with EXCELSIOR, total land requirement for various project activities is about 1401.35 hectares and total land required for the project is spread over in three districts—Ramban, Udhampur and Reasi. Out of 1401.35 hectares of total land requirement, 175.65 hectares is proposed as private land to be acquired for the project which falls in Ramban district only, 541.55 hectares is Government land and 648.15 hectares is forest land.
“As far as forest land is concerned, the indent for the diversion has been submitted to Principal Chief Conservator of Forests by JKSPDC and joint survey of the forest cover has been completed”, sources said, adding “the diversion of forest land for non-forest use is on active consideration of State Government”.
Disclosing that a total of 13 villages having 1477 families will be affected due to the project, sources said that detailed R&R Plan has been prepared to ensure resettlement and rehabilitation of project affected families. “The plan will be implemented at a total budget of Rs 220 crore”, they informed.
Stating that biodiversity conservation and management is being given required attention, sources informed that Environment Management Plan of Rs 432.75 crore has been prepared and it will take care of catchment area treatment, fisheries development, solid waste management, public health delivery, energy conservation, muck disposal, air and water management and environment monitoring.

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