Govt ob­jects to World Bank in­quiry into U’khand plant

Says so­cial en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues linked to power project be­yond bank man­date

Hindustan Times (Patna) - - NATION - Chetan Chauhan chetan@hin­dus­tan­

NEW DELHI: The government has ob­jected to World Bank in­ves­ti­gat­ing Vish­nu­gad Pi­palkoti power plant in Ut­tarak­hand for its so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact say­ing it was be­yond the bank's man­date.

A World Bank team from Washington in Novem­ber last year had con­ducted a pre­lim­i­nary in­quiry into the com­plaint of the lo­cals that the 444 MW power project will de­stroy lo­cal ecol­ogy and im­pact flow of river Ganga and sought a full-fledged in­quiry into the im­pact of the project.

The bank in Au­gust 2012 had sanc­tioned $648 mil­lion for the project, which is yet to get for­est clear­ance from the en­vi­ron­ment min­istry, the last stum­bling block be­fore the work on the project can start.

The bank in a report to the government had found some ob­jec­tions of the lo­cals to be gen­uine and wants the government to look into them. The bank is also con­sid­er­ing a full in­quiry on the ad­verse im­pact of the project on lo­cal hy­drol­ogy, a ma­jor area of con­cern for those fight­ing to save river Ganga. The hy­dro-project is coming on river Alakananda, an im­por­tant trib­u­tary of river Ganga.

The bank, which is also


fund­ing the government's clean river Ganga mis­sion, has re­port­edly raised the pos­si­bil­ity of the project chang­ing the lo­cal en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions, which could im­pact liveli­hood of the lo­cals.

The report also speaks about the emo­tional and spir­i­tual at­tach­ment of large pop­u­la­tion to Ganga. Government of­fi­cials say the report also im­pinges on translo­ca­tion of peo­ple af­fected by the project and dry­ing of lo­cal water bod­ies be­cause of di­ver­sion of Alakananda River for the hy­dro-project.

"Such is­sues are not within the Bank's man­date," a se­nior power min­istry of­fi­cial said. The government feels so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues are un­der na­tional purview and hence be­yond the World Bank's panel man­date.

Many of the is­sues raised by the World Bank are pend­ing be­fore the Supreme Court, the government of­fi­cial said, ar­gu­ing that there was no need for a par­al­lel in­quiry by the bank.

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