Sunday, March 4, 2012

Legal expert warns on mega dam

A meeting of environmental activists from South and South East Asian countries held at Manila, Philippines exposed serious flaws in the environmental impact assessments (EIA) of developmental policies and projects of governments and government agencies of these developing countries.

Besides environmental destruction caused due to such infrastructural and investment projects, people affected by such projects in the form of displacements, loss of livelihood, social and cultural impacts particularly the indigenous populations were the main concerns raised by the activists/campaigners.

Over the current protest against the Tipaimukh Dam, Hasan Mehedi an environment activist from Bangladesh told The Sangai Express that a spell of protest erupted in Bangladesh since the signing of the contract between Govt of Manipur/Govt of India, the National Hydro Electric Power Corporation and the Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd.

The activist said that the concern on Bangladesh side is the draining of the Barak river, the main source of water and apprehension of floods in the plains .

"Tipaimukh dam is a serious case" said Ritwick Dutta, a Delhi based legal expert on environment.

Speaking to The Sangai Express, the legal expert informed that projects need two environment clearances before approval, under the EIA Act of 2006 Act and 2007, both of which the expert said have not been challenged in regard to the Tipaimukh dam either in the High Court nor the Environment Court.

Explaining the seriousness of the impact of the dam, he warned that the calculation of the forests land to be cleared is actually twice the size of the estimate including 26000 hectares for the project, an additional land of similar size for resettlement of the displaced.

"All of which requires separate clearance each" said Dutta.

" 84 lakh trees will have to be cut down " he added.

He further stated that the process requires diversion of forest into non forest land prior to the approval of the project, the permission for which is given by the State Government.

"The Central Government cannot force it" said the legal expert.

Over the question of protest against the construction of the dam and issues raised by people in Manipur and also in Bangladesh the legal expert said "they have a strong ground" .

Affirming that the impact would be severe, Dutta said "diversion of 26000 hectares of forest land is unparalleled as far as the damage is concerned" .

According to Dutta, the compensation for diversion of forest land into a non forest land is approximately Rs 5-10 lakhs per hectare .

Rickwick Dutta stated that on the official records of meetings between the two countries, Bangladesh had put forward before the Indian Government (and Govt of Manipur) that there should be a minimum damage on the Bangladesh side, which was agreed and assured by the later.