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Activist writes to WB saying inspection panel willfully undermined policy on dams in Uttarakhand
New Delhi, Sep 29 - An activist, who was part of an old inspection panel of the World Bank, has alleged that the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change went ahead to suggest that seven hydropower projects in the upper reaches of the Ganga can be constructed only because the World Bank's inspection panel willfully undermined its own policy.
He also appealed to the World Bank to withdraw finance to such disastrous projects.
Drawing attention to several of his communications earlier that had pointed out issues regarding the hydropower projects in the upper reaches of Ganga and how the World Bank inspection panel disregarded those, activists A.K. Roy aka Dunu Roy said in a letter to the chief of the World Bank Panel, "As a consequence of the inspection panel's willful undermining of Bank policy, the Ministry of Environment here has been emboldened to give permission to construct another seven hydropower projects in Uttarakhand."
He further drew attention to the fact that the Tehri Hydropower Development Corporation (THDC), the builder of the Vishnugad Pipalkoti plant, has started to bulldoze houses for construction of the projects.
"This is being done despite vehement opposition by the residents, despite an ongoing case in high court on this project, and despite the ongoing case in Supreme Court on the larger policy issue with regard to the construction of dams in the Ganga basin," Roy said.
As reported last month, eight years after the Supreme Court moratorium on dam construction in the upper Ganga region, three Union ministries and the state of Uttarakhand had reached a "consensus" to allow construction for as many as seven hydropower projects, one of them destroyed in the February 2021 flash floods.
The Ministries of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Jal Shakti, and Power and the state of Uttarakhand together had reached the consensus on the seven projects to be implemented, according to an affidavit filed by the joint secretary in the Environment Ministry, Sujit Kumar Bajpayee, in August in connection with an ongoing case regarding dam projects in Uttarakhand post the 2013 disaster which had witnessed over 5,000 deaths, damage to property and infrastructure projects.
The seven projects are 1,000 MW Tehri stage II project, 520 MW Tapovan Vishnugad project, 444 MW Vishnugad Pipalkote project, 99 MW Singholi Bhatwari project, 76 MW Phata Buyong project, 15 MW Madhmaheshwar project and 4.5 MW Kaliganga II project.
Of these, the Tapovan Vishnugad project was destroyed by flash floods in the Dhauli Ganga basin in Chamoli district in February.
Roy was one of the consultants to the inspection panel when it took up a complaint with respect to the Vishnugarh Pipalkoti hydel project in Uttarakhand in 2012.
He had earlier written to the World Bank in connection with his disagreement with the findings of the panel, which had ignored his arguments in its final report.
In his letter of protest in November 2015, he had mentioned how the so-called 'cumulative' impact assessment was only a 'consolidated' one and in complete violation of World Bank policy that required a regional environment assessment for multiple projects.
In the current letter, Roy also drew attention to how the World Bank's progress report last year had incorrectly mentioned the developments on the ground and said, "I strongly recommend that the inspection panel under your able guidance should review both the findings in the 2014 report as well as the subsequent reports of management with respect to carrying out the recommended measures over six years of constant delay and misreporting. It is time that the World Bank withdrew its financing of such disastrous projects."
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