DEHRADUN: Even as the National Green Tribunal (NGT) upheld the penalty of Rs 57.9 lakh on the Tapovan Vishnugad Hydropower project imposed by the Uttarakhand pollution control board for violating muck disposal regulations in Chamoli, decrying environmentalists feel it is not enough.
The NTPC project at Tapovan is the same site where a majority of 205 persons lost their lives in the flash floods that took place close to three weeks back.
Chairman of the SC-appointed high power committee to monitor the Char Dham Pariyojna of Uttarakhand, Ravi Chopra, feels that it is a welcome step but more needs to be done in this regard. The panel has been consistently pointing out the violations regarding muck disposal on the 889-km long road widening project. Projected as a dream project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it is valued at over Rs 12,000 crore.
"It is being observed repeatedly that irresponsible muck disposal is causing mayhem in Uttarakhand. There is an urgent need for environmental policing and strict action against organisations that openly flout guidelines. A mechanism should be in place to report such acts which are detrimental to the ecology and environment," said Anoop Nautiyal, an analyst based in Dehradun. Nautiyal heads Social Development for Communities, an organisation that is involved in COVID data analysis in the hill state.
The tribunal dismissed the appeal of the NTPC against the fine imposed by the board.
Observing that there is no merit in the appeal as ‘Polluter Pays’ principle has been rightly invoked for damage to the environment, a three-member bench of the tribunal comprising of Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, Justice Sheo Kumar Singh, and expert member Dr Nagin Nanda in the order dated February 18, 2021, stated, "From the above, it is seen that even according to the appellant, the remedial measures are yet to be completed. Credible reports, considered earlier, quoted above show that slope of the muck dumped was hazardously double the standards with potential for erosion. Erosion was already seen in terms of gully formation in down streams of the muck dumps. Thus, it is clear that the operative muck disposal sites were not being maintained as per MoEF laid down norms."
The board had found deficiencies in muck disposal sites and had issued a notice to NTPC on June 29 last year. It had observed that damaged toe protection and contour stone walls should be repaired and strengthened with proper engineering design while recommending suitable fencing to control excess human and animal interference, unattended works of leveling, surface smoothing, and removal of unwanted material and spreading of available soil at the site should be completed, application of manure and fertilizer to improve the soil fertility and plantation of suitable species of grasses, shrubs and tree in a degraded area.
Following this, an inspection was conducted in October 2020 in which the board noted, “the slope of muck dump is observed to be about 60° which is hazardously double the standards. The upstream side of the muck dump is subjected to the entry of water which has further added to trigger severe mass erosion. Under such unstable conditions, as expected, huge mass erosion has been seen in terms of very deep gully formation downstream of this muck dump."
Later, on December 7, 2020, the PCB fined the NTPC following which an appeal was filed by the power company in the tribunal.