|Early Times Report |
Jammu, Jan 15: Experts and earth scientists have sounded alarm bells on the proposed Sawalkote project and urged the authorities of J&K State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) to cancel the public hearing scheduled to be held from Jan 18th to 28th in several villages located around river Chenab in Udhampur, Ramban and Reasi districts where the proposed 1856 MW mega hydro electric project is going to be established. The experts say that Executive Summary about the proposed project hoisted on SPBC is flawed and incomplete in many aspects. The experts allege that proper Relief and Rehabilitation (RR) plan for affected villagers is also not available. According to New Delhi based Himanshu Thakkar who is an expert on dams heading South Asian Network on Dam (SANDRP) says that Chenab river has already existing hydropower projects including 690 MW downstream from proposed Sawalkote project, 900 MW Baglihar I and II and 390 MW Dulhasti HEPs in the upstream, in addition to large number of other projects under consideration. "Inspite of this bumper to bumper hydropower situation, there is no cumulative impact assessment (CIA) or carrying capacity study of the Chenab basin. This is not only imprudent, but it is also in violation of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) orders of May 28, 2012, where MoEF had cleared required such study before more projects can be considered in any basin" Himanshu added.
The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) executive summary does not even mention the word climate change, how climate change will change Chenab river flows and monsoon rainfall, how the project will be impacted by such changes, how the project construction and related changes in landscape will affect the adaptation capacity of the people and area in changing climate. Such an EIA cannot be acceptable in current situation when climate change is already impacting all the Himalayan areas including J&K, as was also clear from the Sept 2014 floods. The EIA executive summary claims that Sawalkote is a run of the river schemes, but this claim is totally wrong and misleading considering that in involves 192.5 m high dam, 1159 ha reservoir with 530 million cubic meters of storage capacity and a massive power house close to the toe of the dam. How can such a project be called run of the river project? This is clearly wrong and misleading claim. The letter which has been addressed to Chairman J&K State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) and other officials of SPBC has been signed by Prof Shakil Ahmad Romshoo, Head, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Kashmir, Prof. M. Sultan Bhat, Head-Department of Geography & Regional Development, University of Kashmir, Dr Arshid Jehangir, Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental Science, University of Kashmir, E A S Sarma, Former Secretary, Govt of India, Madhu Bhaduri, former Ambassador, Dr Bharat Jhunjhunwala, formerly from IIM Bangalore, Samir Mehta; International Rivers & River Basin Friends; Mumbai, Tarun Nair, Researchers for Wildlife Conservation, Bangalore, Manoj Misra, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, Delhi, Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP, Pune, Dr. Latha Anantha, River Research Centre, Thrissur, Kerala, Dr. Zareen Bharucha, University of Essex, UK, Vimal Bhai, Matu Jan Sangathan, Uttarakhand, Himanshu Thakkar, South Asia Network on dams, Dr. Irfan Rashid, Assistant Professor, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Kashmir.